Fire departments train at Oak Bluffs terminal

Island firefighters participated in training exercises at the Steamship Authority pier under a double rainbow. —Courtesy Nelson Wirtz

Personnel with the Oak Bluffs Fire Department, along with partners in neighboring towns, undertook training exercises at the Steamship Authority terminal on Wednesday evening. 

Oak Bluffs Chief Nelson Wirtz tells The Times that the wooden terminal presents a unique challenge for staff if there is a fire, especially when the area is congested with summer traffic. And at the same time, the pier is vital to Oak Bluffs and the Island in general.

Aside from a number of sprinkler systems, the terminal is also fitted with a standpipe system that runs the entire length of the pier. As described by Wirtz, a fire engine pumps water through the standpipe, then firefighters access heads along the line to put out potential fires. The chief said that they were testing water pressure along the pier during their exercises. Also on Wednesday, firefighters trained in using a ladder truck. 

Key to the exercises, Chief Wirtz said, was the presence of mutual aid partners from Edgartown, Tisbury, and West Tisbury. Wirtz said that if there was a fire at the pier — like many emergencies on the Island — Oak Bluffs would need aid from other departments. 

Overall, Wirtz said it was a good day.

“It was a great drill,” the chief said. “There was a lot of apparatus out, and a lot of people. Together we learned a lot about operating the standpipe system. I was really, really pleased with the participation, and what we all got out of it.”