Tisbury firefighters were kept busy this week battling a pair of house fires — one that completely destroyed a home on Codding Lane on Tuesday and another that partially destroyed a home on Spring Hill Road last Friday. No one was injured in either fire, and the cause of both remains under investigation.
The fire at 74 Codding Lane was first reported around 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday. The owner of the home, Lewis Codding, later told firefighters he left home for 20 minutes to go the dump, and returned to find his house completely engulfed in flames.
Mr. Codding tried to enter the home to save several pet cats, but was turned back at the front door by flames and thick smoke.
Tisbury fire chief John Schilling and assistant fire chief James Rogers were first to arrive on the scene. “When I came around the corner I saw it would be too dangerous to send the men in. Flames were coming out of the first floor and basement,” the chief said.
All six fire trucks from Tisbury were dispatched to the scene, as well as two from West Tisbury and one from Chilmark. The Oak Bluffs fire department provided a truck and firefighters to cover the Tisbury fire station in case of another emergency.
Because the Codding home straddled the Tisbury and West Tisbury border, there were no hydrants in the immediate vicinity; firefighters had to use tanker trucks to transport water to the fire.
Chief Schilling said a large folding bag resembling an above ground swimming pool was set up about 100 yards from the burning home to create a primary source for water.
Fire trucks repeatedly drove to a pair of recharge wells — one at the intersection of State and Old County Roads and the other at the West Tisbury fire station — to fill their tanks and return with water for the makeshift pool. A Tisbury pumper truck pushed water from the pool to firefighters battling the blaze.
Chief Schilling expressed newfound respect for up-Island firefighters who do not have the benefit of municipal water or fire hydrants. “That’s rural firefighting. It’s not what we’re used to in Tisbury,” he said.
He said firefighters worked for nearly five hours in frigid temperatures and icy conditions. It was a “minor miracle” no one was injured, the chief said.
“You just couldn’t get your footing all day . . . it was incredible really that nobody was hurt,” he said.
Conditions were so slippery that a Tisbury DPW truck was brought in to sprinkle sand along Codding Lane. A MassHighway truck responded to sand State Road, which also became slippery. In the end the Codding the home was a complete loss.
The community response to the fire that left Mr. Codding and his wife Patricia temporarily homeless was immediate and far-reaching. A small band of friends immediately stepped in to assist the family.
“It’s sort of rescue central here right now . . . we’ve been getting calls since 8:30 this morning,” said Sandi Hakala, a friend of the Codding family, yesterday. “[The Coddings] basically know just everyone around the Island. But since they are such humble people, I think the kindness shown may be a little overwhelming.”
Ms. Hakala said a number of Island businesses — including Brickman’s, Basics Clothing, Alley Cat and Leslie’s Drug Store — have called to donate items. Anyone wishing to help the Codding family can call Orlaith and Keith Estes at 508-693-3721 or Sandi Hakala at 508-693-8827.
The fire last Friday at 87 Spring Hill Road was not as damaging. But weather conditions during the blaze were just as bad.
“Hypothermia was a real possibility; it was like 18 degrees Friday afternoon,” Chief Schilling said.
He said a passerby first called in the fire around 12:50 p.m. Firefighters were able to mostly contain damage to the second floor. The home was previously the residence of Rose Anthony, who died in 2007. The home is currently for sale and was unoccupied at the time of the fire.
The chief praised resident John Rancourt, who opened his doors for firefighters to come inside and get warm while battling the blaze.
Janet Hathaway, Ms. Anthony’s daughter, said yesterday she was grateful to the firefighters who braved the flames and cold weather to save portions of her late mother’s house — as well as family heirlooms stored inside the home. “Those firefighters, in a word, have been amazing. I look at the house now and think I could just as easily be looking at nothing,” she said.
Ms. Hathaway, who is the assistant to the Edgartown board of health, was at work when she got the call. “It was the longest drive from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven in my life. When I got there the road was blocked off, so I just ran the whole length of Spring Hill Road,” she said.
She was joined at the scene by her siblings. She was talking with one of her sisters about valuable items that might still be inside when they remembered their mother’s wedding dress. Assistant fire chief James Rogers overheard them and directed a firefighter to go inside and look for the dress.
“They went up and were looking in closets but couldn’t find it at first. So they came back out and asked me to be more specific. I told them it was somewhere in the upstairs bedroom, and finally they found it in an eave, still stored in a box from the dress company,” Ms. Hathaway said.
Ms. Hathaway said in addition to her mother, both she and her sister wore the dress on their wedding day. Her daughter still hopes to wear it at her wedding this summer. “It’s times like this you are thankful you live on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Hathaway said.
In that vein, she urged people to think about the Coddings.
“The Codding family are the ones who need the next batch of help. My thoughts are with them right now,” she said.