The proprietor of the Ocean View restaurant said he plans to rebuild as quickly as possible following the massive fire that left the building a total loss last Thursday.

“You rebuild; that’s what insurance is about,” said restaurant owner Michael Santoro, speaking to the Gazette by phone Monday.

At the time of the fire Thursday the restaurant was closed for maintenance and repairs. Mr. Santoro was in Florida, and said he returned to the Island as quickly as possible, arriving Saturday.

Restaurant owner Michael Santoro has pledged to rebuild. — Mark Alan Lovewell

He said he saw the building for the first time Sunday.

“My first reaction was the physicality of it, it’s scorched — and then it scorches you,” he said, choking back tears. “And then you think about all the activity that used to take place there.”

The Ocean View building is owned by Charles C. Hajjar, a businessman and real estate developer, while Mr. Santoro owns and operates the year-round restaurant.

Mr. Santoro said he had spoken to Mr. Hajjar, who has promised to rebuild.

“I was on the phone with the landlord. He is committed,” Mr. Santoro said. “We need to look at the different insurance companies — he’s got his, I’ve got mine,” he added.

Oak Bluffs fire chief Nelson Wirtz said the investigation into the fire remains ongoing.

“There’s been no determination by the [state] fire marshal’s office,” Chief Wirzt told the Gazette by phone Monday.

“I know the owner and the insurance companies would like a quick investigation and resolution,” he added. But he said that will be up to the state fire marshal, who was on the scene the day of the fire.

“They try to do everything as fast as they can . . . but they also have to look at and evaluate their investigation,” the chief said.

Chief Wirtz was off-Island attending a conference the day of the fire, but monitored the work of firefighters from afar. On Monday he commended the firefighting teams that converged on the scene after the call went out Thursday morning.

When firefighters arrived, the restaurant building at 14 Chapman avenue overlooking Washington Park was fully involved.

“The initial crews that responded were faced with a large body of fire, and from a strategic and tactical point of view they did an excellent, excellent job of evaluating the need — the need for multiple alarms, and in terms of placement of apparatus,” Chief Wirtz said.

At least two ladder trucks were at the scene, along with multiple other trucks and equipment.

A three-alarm fire meant that every firefighter on the Island was called to the scene.

“A third alarm — after that there’s nobody left,” Chief Wirtz said. “It was an extremely well-coordinated effort by firefighters and officers on scene.”

Located in a close-knit neighborhood surrounded by wood-frame houses, the burning building could have easily ignited nearby properties. Chief Wirtz credited the firefighters with setting priorities quickly.

“Sometimes you have to look at something and go, we’re not going to get this but we can’t let it it go any further . . . sometimes the building of origin is not going to be able to be saved, so the strategy becomes to save everything else,” he said.

He said Vineyard fire chiefs meet monthly and plan many Islandwide training exercises. “We know each other and we train together, so in events like this we are all working kind of from the same page. It really proved itself at the Ocean View fire,” the chief said.

He concluded:

“I’m really proud of all the firefighters on this Island and particularly from Oak Bluffs. Unfortunately this is always a sad event, to lose an institution like that, a year-round restaurant, oh that hurts. But the whole Island pitched in to do their very, very best.”

In a letter to the editor this week, Mr. Santoro thanked the Island community.

“The shock is still real and will take awhile to get over,” he wrote.

“The Ocean View is like a community in itself . . . I have spoken to our landlord and he has made a commitment to work on getting the Ocean View rebuilt as quickly as possible serving our great customers, friends and our community at large once more.”