West Tisbury: Fire protection and safety

— MV Times

I am looking out the window at the changing colors across the tops of trees and shrubs I have planted over the years that Mike and I have had our home here in West Tisbury. Bits of yellow and pale red, some of the leaves merely losing color and turning a paler green. There have been a few brown leaves on the lawn, but so far, I feel the safe enclosure of our woods, thick and verdant. Sunlight makes their surfaces sparkle.

Having read the MV Times article about fire danger in last week’s paper, I look at my view as a temporary Eden. The article scared me to death with its recommendations to cut open fire breaks 30 feet around our houses, stop mulching your gardens, our beloved cedar shingles and wooden decks being deemed nothing but as-yet-unlighted fuel for wildfires. We live across the road from the State Forest. I remember Mike’s Aunt Janice telling us about a fire that came perilously close to her house back in the 1950s or ‘60s.

My husband is a volunteer fireman who has never shown any reluctance to chopping down anything he deems problematic, be it something he thinks is too close to the house (could it rub on his shingles?) or something that gets in his way when he mows. Mike is also very safety-conscious.

Clearing 30 feet around our house would mean the loss of the lilacs Mike’s dad gave us when we moved into our house; he dug them up from the tree on the corner of his and Bobby’s house next door. Most of the dogwood saplings I planted to remind me of my Connecticut childhood would be gone. The red maple tree my brother Andy gave me, a seedling from his yard, that I planted over my black Lab, Leo’s, grave. The burning bush that was supposed to be a dwarf variety, but has filled our backyard high into the trees, and which is now turning pink in spots as I anticipate its annual fiery fall display. The hydrangeas alongside our porch. The large oak trees we left to shade our house in the summer. Maybe even my beautiful rhododendron hedge that makes a border along the southern edge of our woods. I will be living in a wasteland.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will hold their second public meeting about the Community Wildfire Protection Plan this Thursday, Sept. 30, at 5 pm. It will be on Zoom. To attend, go to the Commission’s website, mvcommission.org, on Wednesday. For more information, contact Dan Doyle, Special Program Planner, at doyle@mvcommission.org  or 508-338-7316.

I did call Mr. Doyle. He was very informative and kindly answered my questions and concerns, saying all may not be as dire as I have feared, that we can all make some mitigating steps short of totally clear-cutting our properties. He also told me he will be presenting the commission’s findings at a Zoom meeting of West Tisbury’s Climate Advisory Committee next Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 5 pm. The Zoom link will be on the town’s website. Go to the Climate Advisory Committee and it should be right in the agenda for their meeting that day.

There is a survey on-line at bit.ly/39Elhtv, if you are interested.

ACE MV has sent out their fall class listings. Many of them seem business-oriented, although I noticed a photography course, Understanding Medicare, and one on Island Geology. Among other possibilities are: CNA training, Quickbooks, and a Construction Supervisor License prep course. For the full listing, look at their website: acemv.org.

Next Wednesday, Oct. 6, is National Fossil Day. To celebrate, there will be a gathering between 2 and 6 pm at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, where anyone can bring fossils to share with onsite experts from Yale and Harvard. Our local fossil aficionado, Fred Hotchkiss, organizes this event with the Oak Bluffs library and the Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute every year. It’s a great opportunity to meet other fossil enthusiasts and collectors and to learn about your shared interest. Masks and social distancing requirements will be observed.

The sparkling sunshine I wrote about a few hours ago has disappeared. What little sky I can see is a flat un-color, a harbinger of the storm predicted for later tonight and tomorrow. Our nights and early mornings are already cooler and the days seem mostly golden, even when it rains. I don’t know how much the Island has really quieted down, but my days feel calmer, having a different rhythm, nothing needing to be so urgently done. I suppose things will busy up again as we approach the holidays, but for now the respite from summer couldn’t feel more real.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.