Small Town News

Disaster and Accident

Total Loss' in New Year's House Fire

Vineyard Gazette of Edgartown, Massachusetts

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A New Year's Day fire caused severe damage to an Oak Bluffs home, with Oak Bluffs fire chief Peter Forend saying the home is likely "a total loss."The cause of the fire at 17 Spruce avenue has yet to be determined.

The two-story home was "pretty well gutted out," said Mr. Forend. "There wasn't much we could do."

Two renters were home at the time of the fire but escaped without injury, he said. The home is owned by Vineyard Haven residents Ronald Jackson Jr. and Rene Jackson.

Mr. Forend said the fire is being considered "purely" accidental." A Dukes County fire investigation team is looking into its cause.

Oak Bluffs responders were called to the home just before 3 p.m. on Sunday, with four engines, a ladder and a rescue truck responding from Oak Bluffs and engines coming from Edgartown and Tisbury, Mr. Forend said.

The fire was subdued within half an hour, he said. Firefighters were on the scene for three or four hours to make sure there were no other hot spots and that the fire did not spread to surrounding homes.

Firefighters who responded were briefly stymied by a non-working but real fire hydrant lawn ornament at a neighboring home, Mr. Forend said. A fire assistant was sent down the road to look for a fire hydrant that was no longer there, he said, finding the decorative hydrant instead. The crew realized it wasn't hooked up and never tied into the hydrant, he said. Working hydrants were found at both New York avenue and Chestnut avenue.

Oak Bluffs deputy fire chief Anthony Ferriera was critical of the inoperable hydrant. "My guys wasted precious time hooking up to a fire hydrant that was nonexistent," Mr. Ferreira said at the scene on Sunday. "In a fire, time is everything."

There were no injuries. "The guys did a great job," said Mr. Forend, who was off-Island during the fire. He praised the volunteer crew that responded to the holiday fire. "Half of them were watching the Patriots, I'm sure."

While mourning the loss of a home she and her husband built from scratch, Mrs. Jackson said in an interview with the Gazette that she was "just very grateful" that nobody was injured and the fire did not spread to other homes. "I can't complain about one thing about the fire department," she said, praising firefighters who "left family and friends to come attack the fire."

"We were so in love with that house," Mrs. Jackson said. The couple built the Victorian-style cottage four years ago as a rental property, with Mr. Jackson, Jr., a builder, working on the home during his spare time.

The home "brought a lot of people happiness," Mrs. Jackson said, with the loss felt by the couple, the current tenant, summer renters and the neighborhood.

"We do intend to rebuild," Mrs. Jackson said. "It was a project that we really enjoyed at the time, and I'm sure we'll enjoy doing again."

Copyright 2012 Vineyard Gazette, Edgartown, Massachusetts. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 6, 2012

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