Only two weeks into January and already Oak Bluffs has suffered two fires. The first was the New Year’s Day conflagration of that nice house on Spruce avenue. I was walking Huxley along the harbor when we saw billows of black smoke and columns of orange flame licking the sky. Actually, I don’t know what Huxley saw — he was busy pressing his nose to rocks, dried shrubs and a patch of grass where perhaps a female poodle had left a trace of her DNA seven years before.

The second fire I heard about on the news this past Wednesday morning — a car had erupted in flame, details not yet available.

Thing is, Oak Bluffs is the fire capital of Martha’s Vineyard. The first big — and famous — blaze occurred on the night of Sept. 24, 1892. Past 11 p.m. fire alarms sounded all over town, summoning people in jammies and bathrobes from summer mansions, cottages and boarding houses. Crowds stood in stunned circles and stared at the giant Sea View Hotel as volcanoes of flame shot into black skies.

This was a tragic loss. Set on the beach where the O.B. ferry steams in today, the Sea View was a sprawling Victorian show-off of olive green clapboard, gables, undulating walls, bay windows and dormers, and anchored at both ends by towers with red trim. It had 125 guest chambers, lavish public rooms downstairs and modern miracle amenities, such as a steam-powered elevator.

This colossal loss was considered a lone tragedy, a fluke, but then the following summer the second-biggest hotel and another Victorian queen, the Highland House, located across the harbor on the sands where the East Chop Beach Club stands today, also burned to the ground. And then in the following weeks, fires erupted at a number of Victorian cottages and the Cottage City school.

A serial arsonist was at work in the town. More than anything else, this specter of an unknown fire-starter destroyed the tourist trade in O.B.’s Gilded Age for many years to come.

The alleged arsonist was caught in the summer of 1894. And so was her sister. Yes, it was a sibling act of antisocial behavior or, as the paper phrased it at the time, the girls were “depraved incendiaries.” The sisters, Julia and Lulu Danzell, were quickly sent away — either to a penitentiary or, as Milton Jeffers once put it, an “old-time funny farm.” I’ve done some delving, but no one seems to know what became of them. Did they die in the loony bin? Were they rehabilitated and married off to New Bedford businessmen, raising happy little families of tots who happened to have a fascination with matches? Who knows?

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit there’s a supernatural element to the fires of the 1890s and the Oak Bluffs blazes of today. I’m convinced of this from my research, and if you were to ask me, “Do ghosts have fire-starting materials from beyond the grave?” I’d have to answer, “Yes.” For details you’ll need to attend the haunted walking tours now conducted by Gary Cook and Karen Altieri in the summertime. On their Oak Bluffs ramble they’ll tell you how the spirits of the depraved incendiaries have occasionally returned for a — pardon the pun — rematch.

Did these sisters have anything to do with the Spruce avenue fire and the car blowing up? It’s doubtful. I do believe the spirits of the poor Danzell damsels have finally been laid to rest.

On a far happier note, a baby has been born to one of the town’s more revered families. On Dec. 28, 2011, at 3:45 a.m., Mateo Juan Leon Lynch, 8 pounds and 13 ounces — big boy! — was born in Boston to parents Michelle and Terry Lynch. Mateo’s proud grandparents are Donna (née Phillips, of Phillips Hardware) and Jaime Leon. With any luck, we’ll be seeing this tyke around town when Michelle and Terry come down for holidays.

The United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard will honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this Sunday by using excerpts from his sermons and other writings in their 10 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity Church, across from the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. The selections come from sermons written between 1954 and 1968 for churches all over the United States, including Alabama, Chicago, Detroit and Montgomery, as well as his 1964 Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Winter hours for the Oak Bluffs Library are actually bigger and better and back to pre-2008 stringency measures: Wednesday and Friday the library will continue to operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but nighttime hours have been re-established for Tuesday and Thursday, now open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Staff and library devotees are delighted by this new evening time in our beloved Taj Mahal of books and computer crannies.

Also at the library, a Dr. Who party will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 21, with food, videos and fun for all the cult fans of this sci-fi series.