A late-night fire which broke out in Coral Bay on Monday evening, October 16, destroyed a wooden house and highlighted the often-discussed need to name streets and number homes on the many small, rutted roads across St. John.
The owner of the home, which is located on the top of a steep hill above what is commonly known as “Rupert’s junk yard” near Estate Carolina, lives in New York and the renter of the house was off-island when the fire erupted.
Although two Coral Bay residents had been house-sitting, they had not been staying at the home for a few nights when the fire broke out. No one was injured in the blaze.
Fire officials do not believe any suspicious activity caused the fire, according to V.I. Fire Department St. John Deputy Chief Brian Chapman.
“We don’t know what caused the fire at this point, but nothing looked suspicious,” said Chap-man. “We think perhaps there was an electrical problem which caused the fire, but we don’t know for sure.”
The fire was reported at 10:40 p.m. by neighbors in the area who were not affected by the flames thanks to the lack of wind, Chapman explained.
Many other residents reported seeing the fire, with flames reaching 40 to 50 feet high, and hearing sirens coming from different directions.
Fire officials from the Coral Bay station arrived at the scene at 10:55 p.m., after driving in the wrong direction on Centerline Road. A second Fire Service vehicle from the Coral Bay station drove up Lower Bordeaux Road and had to turn around since that road does not connect to the street where the blazing house was located.
The 15 minutes it took fire fighters to arrive at the scene probably didn’t make a difference, Chapman explained.
“The structure was completely made of wood and didn’t look substantial,” he said. “It was totally totaled when we arrived.”
Despite complaints by numerous residents that St. Thomas first responders who are stationed on Love City often don’t know the many unnamed streets on the island, St. John residents were on duty that night, according to Chapman.
“I’ve heard those complaints, but it wasn’t an issue in this case,” he said.
Instead, Chapman said the road is not named and directions to the house were not clear.
No Street Signs, House No.
“There are no street signs up there and no numbers on the telephone poles, which we’ve been saying we need for ages,” he said. “We needed directions to get there. You can look up the hill and see the fire, but the road you’re on doesn’t connect.”
Residents in a few neighborhoods, including Fish Bay and Upper Carolina, have secured numbers to telephone poles on their streets, but the initiative needs to be island-wide, Chap-man added.
Additional fire officials from the Cruz Bay station also arrived at the scene as well as two off-duty fire fighters and Chapman himself. The fire was extinguished around 11:55 p.m. but was still smoldering on Tuesday afternoon, October 17.
Chapman could not estimate the property damage caused by the fire.