In the middle of March, lifelong Chilmarker Mike Holtham was pulling out from his winter home on Quansoo when a group of fire trucks sped by, sirens blaring. Curious, he made a split-second decision to follow the trucks, which were headed to a fire on a road nearby.

“I know every person that lives on that street right now,” he remembered thinking as he approached the scene. “Now there’s no excuse,” he thought.

The next day, Mr. Holtham walked into the Chilmark fire station and signed up to be a volunteer firefighter.

It’s been an exhausting week for Chilmark fire chief David Norton, but during a brief respite at the station yesterday, he took a few minutes to look back on the events, Monday afternoon that are now well recorded in newspapers and cameras around the Island and beyond.


Around the Vineyard, the number of volunteer firefighters serving
their communities is falling.

Ten years ago, the Tisbury fire department was running with a full
complement of 51 volunteer firefighters. Today the number has dropped to

Three years ago, the Chilmark fire department boasted a full staff
of 38 volunteers. Today the number of firefighters responding to a call
is almost half of that.