Tisbury firefighters snuff apartment fire

Tisbury cop, good Samaritan neighbors, rescue family with a ladder.

Fire damaged a house at 130 Cook Road in Vineyard Haven early Friday morning. - Rich Saltzberg

Updated July 12

Tisbury firefighters responded to an apartment blaze on Friday morning at roughly 1:45 am. The fire was on an apartment deck at 130 Cook Road behind Vineyard Grocer. 

A mother and three children were trapped inside, as the deck was the only means of egress, Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland said. Tisbury Police, who were first on the scene, used an extension ladder to rescue the mother and children through a back window. “The police did a fantastic job,” Chief Leland said.

Firefighters knocked down the fire in the first 15 minutes, Leland said. 

The family was examined for smoke inhalation, and appears to be doing well, Leland said. They are being sheltered by the American Red Cross.

Damage to the building was “minimal,” but smoke damage to the apartment was “substantial,” Leland said. The apartment underneath suffered water damage, he said.

Edgartown and Oak Bluffs responded in mutual aid, and West Tisbury covered Tisbury’s station, he said. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.

Tisbury Police Officer Nick Sidoti and two neighbors saved the mother and her children, according to a police report and accounts from neighbors.

Sidoti responded to the vicinity that night at 1:38 am, based on a report of “a possible fight,” and was flagged down by James Tilton, a neighbor, a report states. 

Tilton said he heard screams, but was unsure where the screams came from. Tilton then pointed behind Sidoti and said, “‘Look, it’s on fire!’ I turned around and could see the red glow of flames and a large amount of smoke coming from an unknown structure,” a report states.

After notifying the fire department via the communications center, Sidoti made his way to the fire with Tilton.

A resident of the downstairs apartment, Steven Tully, directed Sidoti to a window at the back of the building, a report states. Sidoti observed a woman cranking open a window as smoke billowed out. Sidoti observed two kids and noted the window didn’t open enough to let a person pass through.

The woman “was screaming for help and I repeatedly told her to push or kick the window as hard as she could to break the hinge free so it would open all the way,” a report states. The woman “kept pushing on the window, but it would not open completely.”

Steven Tully exclaimed he was getting a ladder, according to the report.

Smoke increased, and the woman kicked the window and broke its hinge, allowing it to open more, a report states.

Tilton and Tully arrived with a ladder and the three positioned it. Sidoti then climbed the ladder and proceeded to collect three children, one after the other, from the mother, and then guided the mother down the ladder, according to a report.

Fire trucks rolled on the scene moments later.

In an email to The Times, Astrid Tilton said her mother dialed 911 before her father dashed out to help. 

“Once we all got home that night,” she wrote, “my dad kept saying how well Officer Sidoti handled the situation, and how important it was for the other man to help, too [Tully]. My father said he was ready to be the one to climb the ladder, or even to run through the flaming front door. And in bare feet — my dad ran over so fast he didn’t even put shoes on! I am so glad Officer Sidoti arrived when he did!”

Tilton told The Times Officer Sidoti was ready to catch the kids, if need be. 

“I think if there was another way out, they’d have taken it,” he said. “The flames were all around the door.”

He confirmed he ran to help barefoot. 

As the kids were brought down, he kept an eye on them. “I made sure they all stayed right together,” he said.

Discounting his own service to the rescue, Tilton humbly said Sidoti deserves to be recognized for his actions.

In a letter to Tisbury Police, neighbor Eva Raposa, who heard and saw portions of the rescue, expressed gratitude to the Tisbury Police Department.

“From every part of my heart,” she wrote, “I want to thank you all for what you do for us. And in this moment, I want to especially thank Officer Sidoti for that determination and kindness. It really hit me hard in the moment, and continues to affect me in a positive way, to know that we have officers of that caliber right here ready to help. I’m not surprised at all, but it’s still incredible to hear and see it in action.”

Raposa has set up a gofundme page for the family, who are in need of a new place to live. 

At a select board meeting Tuesday night, board members voted unanimously to send a letter to Sidoti praising his efforts.

Grande said the officer’s response “averted a larger tragedy,” a sentiment that was shared by board members. “Officer Sidoti is to be praised very highly — saved those lives, that was great,” select board member Larry Gomez said.





Raposa has set up a gofundme page for the family, who are in need of a new place to live. Updated with more details. 




  1. Fortunately, Officer Sidoti was there to the rescue. Before something unexpected happens, look around. Formulate a plan, and talk it over with the others with whom you live. Test your smoke alarms. When we lived in an upstairs, we purchased a chain ladder, practiced how to use it, and made sure everyone in the household knew how to use it. It gave us peace of mind.

  2. Great work to all involved it’s always good to hear when no one get seriously injured. Congrats to Officer Sidoti for a job well done. I was once in a similar situation when I pulled an elderly man from a burning car. There is a rush of adrenaline that runs through you at that moment that makes you think of nothing but saving this person.

      • ajay
        Massachusetts building codes require two exits in a dwelling. This has nothing to do with Communism, or any other political ideology that doesn’t fit your narrow views. It’s a safety issue and this incident perfectly illustrates the reason for that stipulation in the code.
        In fact, when I read the article the thing that immediately came to mind was the lack of a second exit. This may well be an illegal apartment.

        • My thoughts exactly. I hope the the GoFundMe fundraiser is enough to hire a lawyer to sue the pants off the landlord. I can’t even imagine the terror of being blocked inside by fire with no other way out.

        • I may be wrong, but a 2’x2’ window serves as a second exit out of a bedroom…just look at your own bedrooms in your houses

  3. Now, we have a family of three children and their Mom who are left with literally nothing! One of the children is very medically delicate. They need a new place to live and all that goes with it. Please be on the lookout for ways to help! I know this family, and they’ve had more than their share of hard knocks! Let’s lift them up!

  4. Island Friends, Lisa now has a GoFundMe set up here >> https://gf.me/u/yf8qpg
    The kids are doing well, but Lisa will need several appointment for skin grafting due to burns in the fire. And of course they will need a safe new home to live in!

  5. Someguy, right you are. I, too, had an immediate first reaction to no second exit. The landlord/owner needs to be sanctioned. And, to rent it to a family of small children is unconscionable. I hope there is follow up on this and measures to solve the problem of no second egress/ingress. Shameful to everyone involved.

  6. To Someguy…again, I could be wrong, but I believe a ”functional fire escape” is required on a 3rd floor and up. Of course, the windows need to be functional, as well, especially in a bedroom for this very purpose to act as a second escape route.

Comments are closed.

Previous articleFlying Horses closed for the summer
Next articleStanding against sexual violence