Friday, May 12th, was a day of excitement over the eastern half of Martha's Vineyard when men from the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury, and the country roundabout, in all to the number of several hundred persons, labored from 7 a. m. until nightfall, handicapped by a heavy wind, at times approaching a gale, in their efforts to control one of the most extensive woods and brush fires which has occurred on the island in years, if ever before. The property loss runs into the thousands.

The are burned over has been conservatively estimated at some eighteen to twenty square miles, or from 11000 to 13,000 acres, which included grass land, brush and woodland, burning in its course many cords of cut wood, at least two barns, one gunning lodge, various outbuildings, and at times approached threateningly near the several villages on eastern end of the island. The buildings on the State heath hen reservation were saved by the desperate work of the fire-fighters. Some of the heath hen were burned, perhaps a tenth of the number of the old birds, and all of the eggs for this year's crop of young were destroyed, and the rabbits on the reservation are practically all gone.

The fire, the cause of which yet remains a mystery, apparently started about 7 a. m. in the township of West Tisbury on the old road, between that place and Vineyard Haven, at a point about a mile from the West Tisbury Postoffice.

The blaze soon reached tremendous proportions. The woods and the scrub oaks and pines on the Vineyard plains were dry, and the flames were fanned by a brisk northwest northwest wind that occasionally attained the severity of a gale. Before this wind, the blaze was driven with rapidity and even when it burned through a section of wood it continued to race across the dry fields and would eat its way into the next adjoining clump of trees. Early in the forenoon the fire which then had burned over several square miles seemed suddenly to mushroom out and to threaten the whole east end of the island.

The fire wardens directing their large forces of men fought the blaze with back fires and dirt. Some crews were engaged in attempts to burn areas ahead of the flames, while others, by far the greatest number, were organized into shovel brigades. Teams of horses were used to plow wide and deep furrows ahead of the blaze. But when it would seem as if success were to crown the efforts of the fighters, shifts in the wind of flying brands would checkmate the attack, and it would have to be tried all over again.

Not until late afternoon was the fire under control, the wind in the meantime having largely subsided, but later at various places on the edges of the vast territory devastated the flames would occasionally start up and occasioned much watching and work on the apart of many of the firefighters, during the night and the next day.


Fire Notes

Owners of automobiles in the various villages did excellent work in rushing fighters to the scene of action, and transporting them to threatened points quickly.

The splendid help of the women, who made coffee and sent or carried all manner of good things eatable to the front for the thirsty and hungry men, was highly appreciated by them, and “God bless them” was heard on every side.

Where scores and probably hundreds were all striving to help in a common cause and doing their best it would be unfair to particularize. Suffice it to say that many Vineyard men and women arose nobly to the occasion, and after a day of trial and hard fighting the victory was theirs.

The extent of the fire and the rapidity with which it travelled may perhaps be more fully realized by noting that, starting near the village of West Tisbury about seven o'clock it was threatening the house and premises of Shubael H. Adlington, just outside of Edgartown, having come some eight miles, and was only stopped within 100 yards of Mr. Adlington's barn. His loss he estimates at $500 on corded and standing wood.

Between five and six o'clock the flames burst out anew some distance to the westward and in the rear of the house of Mrs. Julia Harrington and other houses near the oaks and pines on the West Tisbury road. The Harrington and Deits houses were at one time seriously threatened, but help being sent for and arriving from town the fire was finally checked after a hot fight.

Forest Warden Manuel S. Roberts was promptly “on his job.” He got the alarm at 7.30 and immediately proceeded by automobile with men to the scene of the fire.