Volunteer firefighters from four towns responded quickly and effectively Sunday afternoon to extinguish a fast-moving brush fire near the West Tisbury School on a blustery day.
The fire burned between an acre and a half to two acres of forested land between the Island Children’s School on Halcyon Way and the West Tisbury School, West Tisbury fire chief Manuel Estrella 3rd told the Gazette. The fire started in a mulch pile that combusted, Chief Estrella said. There were no injuries or damage to property.
The call came in at 1:47 p.m. with fire crews from West Tisbury, Chilmark, Aquinnah and Tisbury responding. By 2:15, the fire had been extinguished and crews with fire hoses worked their way back and forth over the burned earth beneath the trees.
A youth baseball practice on the West Tisbury School field was evacuated after the fire began, and one person, a cleaning lady, was evacuated from the Island Children’s School, West Tisbury police Lieut. Matt Mincone told the Gazette at the scene.
A large number of young baseball players were assembled for two team practices Sunday afternoon at the baseball diamond by Old County Road. People attending the practice said smoke was visible at first coming from the woods, and then it intensified in the wind, changing suddenly to flames racing through the woods. The practices were cancelled and children herded off the playing field.
Chief Estrella said the fire came within eight feet of burning four school buses parked by the school. The buses were spared when the wind shifted.
“We were very lucky and the guys did a good job,” he said.
Lieutenant Mincone praised the fast response for preventing what could have been a much worse fire given the dry conditions and high winds.
“The collaborative effort between the departments really saved it,” he said.
Coincidentally, an all-Island fire drill was held Sunday morning at the Agricultural Hall, Chief Estrella said. All towns except Edgartown were at the drill, and the volunteer firefighters were headed home when the call came in about the brush fire.
At their meeting Wednesday, West Tisbury selectmen agreed to write a letter to the other departments to thank them for their help with the fire.
“I went over and saw it just as they were putting it out,” selectman chair Richard Knabel said. “It was quite a chore and I think we should say thank you.”
“Thanks to our fire department,” he added. “They were right on it.”
Sydney Bender and Sara Brown contributed reporting.