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Cruz Bay
Sunday, February 5, 2023


Nov. 8, 2001 – Wednesday was a lucky day for Water Islanders in more ways than one. In a meeting with U.S. Department of Interior officials, residents were promised something their island has never had: a fire station complete with sleeping quarters, a kitchen, an office area, housing for a pumper truck and, eventually, four full-time firefighters. (See earlier story "Interior to build Water Island fire station").
Even luckier, though, earlier in the day, a brigade of 10 island residents was able to avert a disaster by putting out a ground fire armed only with garden hoses, rakes, shovels and buckets.
"It was really lucky that people were home," island resident Brad Monroe said Thursday morning. Monroe had gotten a call for help around 11 a.m. from neighbor Linda Gidley, who said the fire, fanned by dry south winds, was moving toward her home. Chuck Gidley was already at the scene trying to stop the fire, which had started at the top of a utility pole about a hundred feet from their house.
By the time the volunteers put the fire out, it was less than 50 feet from the Gidley home.
"Another lucky part was the fire was close to a house; you could use the cistern water," Chuck Gidley reflected Thursday. "If not, well …"
He said Water Island residents are all equipped with lengths of garden hose and buckets, for good reason. In fact, several rushed to a car fire on Monday, which also was successfully put out.
On Wednesday morning, though, "It was just lucky I saw the smoke," Gidley said. "How about if I wasn't home? Ninety percent of the time I would have been in town."
It was also lucky, he said, that the fire was almost out by the time the power line went down, cutting off electricity — and, therefore, use of water pumps — for four hours.
Water and Power Authority response "was excellent," Gidley said. Three linemen arrived in less than an hour, transported by Charles "Hap" Starr, another Water Island resident, in his boat. One lineman climbed to the top of the pole and put out the fire.
WAPA officials couldn't say Thursday what started the fire at the top of the pole. In fact, they said they had not been informed about the fire.
Gidley said one of the linemen told him that a fire of that sort "happens once in a while."
Gidley said he never made it to the 4 p.m. meeting where plans for the new fire station were announced. "I figured it was more important to stay here and make sure all the embers were out," he said.

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