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.