Early morning Friday blaze destroys Tisbury house

The house was destroyed in the early morning fire. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

A fire that began in the predawn darkness Friday destroyed a house at 59 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. One man was home at the time, but he was not injured,Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said.

The call came at 4:20 am. The Tisbury Fire Department responded along with police and EMTs. They were later joined by the Oak Bluffs Fire Department and EMS personnel.

The threat from a live electric wire delayed the firefighters’ initial attack on the blaze. Chief Schilling criticized NSTAR, because of what he described as a delay before the utility crew arrived to cut power to the house.

The occupant reported the fire. Tisbury police officers were the first to arrive on scene. They confirmed that the caller was alone in the house and had escaped safely.

The man was transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Tisbury ambulance coordinator Jeff Pratt said. Mr. Schilling declined to identify the occupant, citing medical privacy laws.

Jonathan Wild lives at the property owned by Harold Wild of Pleasantville, NY, according to town records.

Tisbury police blocked off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road between Skiff Avenue and State Road. Tisbury firefighters remained at the scene for about four hours, the chief said.

“The house is a total loss,” Chief Schilling said of the single-family, two-story wood frame dwelling. “The roof and second floor caved in onto the first floor. When we arrived, there were flames coming through the roof. It was a defensive operation from the outset, especially once we knew there was no one in the building.”

The house is set back about 30 feet from the street and there is considerable growth of vegetation on both sides of it, which made access difficult for the firefighters, Chief Schilling said. To make matters worse, the power line to the house burned off before the firefighters got set up.

“That added a hazard and further restricted our ability to fight the fire,” Chief Schilling said. “It was very difficult to operate around a live wire, which was on our best access point.”

Chief Schilling said he notified NSTAR as soon as firefighters arrived on the scene. He said it took about 75 minutes for NSTAR personnel to arrive and cut the power.

“We weren’t going to change the outcome of the fire because of that, but it certainly added an element of risk that our firefighters had to contend with,” Chief Schilling said.

Asked if the fire department has experienced similar delays with NSTAR, the chief said, “This has been a source of concern among all the Island fire chiefs. NSTAR’s response after-hours is very troubling. It alters our approach to a structure fire when we have a live wire. This has come up before, and we will be following through with NSTAR.”

Asked for a response, NSTAR spokesman Michael Durand provided the following comment in an email to The Times. “We take our relationships with local emergency officials very seriously and strive to respond quickly when they call for assistance. We’ll be reaching out to Chief Schilling as soon as possible to discuss his concern.”

Chief Schilling said the cause of the fire was unknown on the day it occurred and an investigation was underway. “The building is not safe to enter at this point in time, and that will impede our investigation,” he said.

Mr. Schilling said Ken Barwick, Tisbury building inspector, inspected the property Friday morning and agreed the remains of the house were not safe to enter.

Tuesday, Mr. Schilling said he did not have any new information regarding the fire’s cause. “We haven’t been able to speak to the occupant as of yet,” he said. “Also, because of scheduling issues between the insurance adjustor, the insurance investigator and our investigator, we aren’t going to be able to begin the investigation until the first of next week.”

The Times was unable to contact Harold Wild.