A powerful fire swept through an Edgartown home on Fourth street early Wednesday morning, completely destroying the two-bedroom residence and leaving eight people homeless.
Edgartown fire chief Peter Shemeth said yesterday that a delay in the reporting of the fire caused firefighters to lose considerable time and may have contributed to the home’s total destruction. The home was reportedly occupied by eight Brazilian nationals, seven adults and one child.
Mr. Shemeth said an occupant of the home discovered the fire and apparently called a third party who then called 911 emergency on a cell phone. That call was routed through the state police communications center in Framingham before being redirected to the Island communications center, which cost emergency personnel valuable time.
“[The fire] already had a head start on us,” Mr. Shemeth said.
Firefighters arrived at the scene at 5:53 a.m. to find the fire fully involved, and immediately trained their hoses on several propane tanks in back and in front of the home. Mr. Shemeth said the tanks had already self-vented and flames were shooting out of the safety valves to prevent them from exploding.
The chief said firefighters knocked down the flames and made an interior attack. He said information from the communications center indicated all residents had exited the building before firefighters arrived. No occupants were injured in the blaze, he said, although a firefighter was taken to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, largely as a precaution.
Mr. Shemeth said the fire likely started in the garage, although the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Fire officials from Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury are working together to determine the cause of the fire, he said.
Richard A. Bjornsen is the homeowner of record. The Cape and Islands chapter of the American Red Cross is helping the victims of the fire find temporary housing, the fire chief said.
Dukes County Sheriff Mike McCormack said 911 calls made by cell phone have caused delays for emergency personnel in the past. He said people should call the Island call center from their cell phone at (508) 693-1212 during an emergency, or dial 911 from a land line, which automatically redirects to the Island communications center.
Mr. McCormack said until recently, all 911 calls placed by cell phone were redirected to state police call centers in other parts of the state. He said the Island communications center now has software designed to reroute cellular calls by satellite to the nearest communications center, but he said the system is still a work in progress.
Mr. McCormack said he performed a test of the software yesterday by calling 911 on his cell phone, and was redirected to the state police communications center in Middleborough.