Oak Bluffs blaze destroys family's home
Oak Bluffs firefighters responded to a consuming house fire at 29 Carole Avenue, off County Road in Oak Bluffs, late Monday morning. Homeowners Jack and Kimberly D'Arcy, who arrived soon after firefighters, could do little but watch as the blaze destroyed their house.
Oak Bluffs fire chief Peter Forend told The Times Wednesday that the fire was accidental in nature. Both local and state investigators had determined the cause was a kitchen stove left on.
"It got hot enough, the counter caught on fire, and it went right up the cabinets." Chief Forend said.
In a telephone call to The Times yesterday, Mr. D'Arcy said his wife was boiling four pots of water in order to give their two children baths. On Friday, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued a boil water order to the Oak Bluffs Water Department after routine water testing revealed the presence of coliform bacteria in the town's water supply.
Mr. D'Arcy explained that his wife intended to let the water cool and use it to give their children a bath following a short trip to the beach, but she apparently forgot to turn the stove off.
No one was at the home when the fire began, and no firefighters were injured battling the blaze.
It took firefighters a scant few minutes to respond, but when the first trucks pulled up in front of the small ranch style home, located a short distance from the fire station, flames were roaring out the first floor windows throughout the home.
Deputy fire chief Tony Ferreira, who was among the first to arrive, said it was apparent the blaze was beyond control. "It was already through the roof," Mr. Ferreira said.
The Oak Bluffs aerial ladder truck, four Oak Bluffs engines, and a Tisbury engine were deployed on the narrow street. Two firefighters stepped from the aerial ladder platform onto the roof, and used a chain saw to cut a hole through the roof. Venting the fire allowed heat and gases to escape, so firefighters could enter the burning building to attack the flames from inside. Soon after the roof was vented, flames shot out through the hole and the gable end of the home. Then things turned dangerous for the firefighters inside.
"They were just minutes into the interior attack when the roof started to cave in," said deputy chief Ferreira. He ordered everyone out of the building. Firefighters sounded three short blasts from the fire truck air horns, the signal to evacuate.
Once the interior attack ended, flames broke through the roof again, and firefighters began attacking the flames from above. A powerful stream of water was poured into the home from the aerial platform. About 12:20 pm, the flames were finally out, but not before most of the roof had collapsed.
Throughout the day, about 50 firefighters were involved in battling the blaze. The first firefighters on the scene called for mutual aid from the Tisbury and Edgartown departments.
Tragedy hits home
The D'Arcys lived in the home with their two small children. Mr. D'Arcy, a stonemason by trade, is well known on the Island as the co-owner of Contemporary Landscapes, a large Vineyard Haven landscaping firm. Before the birth of her children, Kimberly D'Arcy was a teacher at the Charter School. Mr. D'Arcy arrived at the fire scene just minutes after it began, and watched with remarkable composure from a neighbor's lawn. Some time later, Kimberly D'Arcy returned from the beach, but was stopped near the end of the street, where firefighters had blocked access. She was still unaware that her home was on fire. Mr. D'Arcy ran to the end of the street where she was waiting. Surrounded by friends and family who supported them literally and figuratively, the couple walked back down Carole Avenue, where Ms. D'Arcy fell to her knees in tears at the sight of the flames. The two parents held their children close, helpless to do anything but watch the devastation. In the end, the home, and nearly all of its contents, were destroyed by the water and flames.
"It was surreal," Mr. D'Arcy said. "You don't think it's ever going to happen to you."
Long before the flames were extinguished, the Island's sense of community and generosity was evident.
"There were people who came up to us while we were standing outside the house and put money in our hands, that we don't even know," Mr. D'Arcy said.
Yesterday, he reflected on the loss, the outpouring of support he has experienced since the fire, and his relief that his family was not at home. "Knowing that, I don't feel any different when I have nothing, than I did when I had everything I needed." Most of the couples' family members and close friends were still on the Island after attending a christening the day before. With the help of local merchants, they have taken care of the family's immediate needs, including temporary living space. Plans are under way for a future event to raise funds for long-term needs.
"We'll be fine," Mr. D'Arcy said. "I have a list of 50 phone calls, everybody I've ever probably met on Martha's Vineyard called to ask what they could do."