Douse your beach fires

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To the Editor:

I think we can all agree this has been a great summer, especially after our long and never-ending winter. In celebration of this glorious summer coming to an end, we attended a Sunday potluck brunch with several friends at the Tashmoo opening beach. As we all sat on the beach watching boats come and go, with many young families enjoying that last lazy day at the beach before school begins and our lives start to fall back into routines, our conversation was about how grateful we were to claim this beautiful Island as home, and that this was perhaps the most perfect day of summer. A group of young children were crabbing with chicken legs off the jetty side of the beach. Their excitement and joy as they pulled crabs from the water was contagious, and soon we were cheering them on.

Suddenly this perfect summer day was broken by the sound of a child no more than 3 years old screaming. He stood behind our circle of chairs, frozen in place and shaking. I first thought he had cut his foot on a broken bottle, but soon realized he had walked into a fire pit left from the night before by some careless and amazingly disrespectful people. The child was quickly picked up, as people from several directions ran to help. Coolers full of ice were applied to this poor little boy’s feet as he screamed in pain. We took several large pails of water and poured it over the hot sand. Clouds of steam rose from the totally innocent looking sand. As the water hit the sand, it boiled and bubbled. Above the hissing as we continued to pour water on the sand, the child continued to scream. How could anyone be so careless? Further investigation found a second fire pit on the beach, at the edge of the beach grass. Again, it looked very benign, but when poked with a stick and doused with water, it hissed and spit clouds of steam.

When we arrived at the beach, we had noticed two porta-potties by the parking lot. At first we thought the town had decided to supply toilets at Tashmoo Beach, and we were surprised when the porta-potty truck came to haul them away; they had been for a private function the night before. My guess is with the small number of potty delivery companies, it would be fairly easy to find the party that rented them and left the beach fires unattended and smoldering.

My goal, however, is not to point a finger, but more to call attention to the importance of taking the time to really douse a beach fire, and the importance of having your fire in a container of some sort, and of marking your now-dead fire with sticks in a circle to warn beachgoers the following morning of possible lingering hot spots. We have been enjoying beach fires on the Island for decades. It is a big part of summer for us. I would hate to see circumstances such as this cause authorities to call back our right to do so. With cooler evenings ahead and so many of us going to enjoy the last sunsets of summer while toasting marshmallows in that wonderful orange glow beach fires cast: Please remember to douse your fires, and make sure they are totally cold before leaving the beach. Hopefully this little guy will not remember this scary day at the beach, and the joy and excitement of catching crabs will stay in his head instead. I pray his feet will heal quickly, and thank all the kind people who helped him.

Karen Hannigan

Edgartown