Word has reached us of the passing of Ed Johnson. Please add information as you learn of it.
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along
Monhegan Commons will no longer be up dated on a daily basis, and the plan is to end it altogether on Columbus Day. It has been good to know yuh, but I got to be driftin’ along. Thank you Jim, Marjorie, and of course all of you.
The volunteer firefighters on Monhegan Island don’t see a lot of action, but just after midnight on Feb. 14, when the first structure fire on Monhegan Island in 22 years broke out, a crew of five firefighters pulled together and had the fire “totally out” when Bristol firefighters arrived on the island for mutual aid, said Jared Pendleton, Bristol First Assistant Fire Chief.
The homeowner, Sherman Stanley, was at home alone with his dog when the fire started; neither Stanley nor the dog was injured in the fire, Pendleton said.
Pendleton arrived on scene with eight other Bristol firefighters and a Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy after the fire had been extinguished – using water pumped from a hand-dug well – with little structural damage to the home and no threat to surrounding structures.
“There was extensive smoke damage, but the house is very rebuildable,” Pendleton said. “A small group of volunteers did a phenomenal job. It was a basic, homegrown, grassroots effort.”
At the Lincoln County Commissioners meeting on Feb. 15, Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Tim Pellerin commended the island’s firefighters, saying, “The Monhegan fire brigade are heroes.”
The fire started after a propane tank next to the home leaked fuel into the basement. An unknown source – possibly electrical – sparked the propane and fire spread, Pendleton said.
According to Pendleton, Stanley, who could not be reached for comment, told firefighters he was sleeping and the initial explosion from the propane in the basement igniting “woke him up somewhat,” Pendleton said. It was only after Stanley’s dog ran downstairs and back up to the bedroom that Stanley knew something was wrong.
“[Stanley] credits his dog for making sure he knew what was going on and getting him out of bed,” Pendleton said.
Monhegan firefighters responded to the scene shortly after the fire ignited, used the capacity of the water tank on their 1963 fire truck, and started pumping water from the hand-dug well, an old public water supply.
“I was amazed that well held out until the fire was out,” said Monhegan firefighter Matt Schweier. Monhegan has a town water supply, but it’s only operational from about April to November.
Schweier, 42, has been going to Monhegan Island in the summers for most of his life, and has lived on the island year round for about eight years. In the last 10 years that he’s been fighting fires with the Monhegan Fire Department, this is the largest fire he’s seen.
“We get bean pots on stoves that make some smoke, and a dryer fire” started a few years ago, but it’s rare for the volunteers to face a fully involved structure fire, Schweier said.
Schweier was humble about his department’s response to the blaze: “It was 95 percent luck and 5 percent effort and everything else,” he said. The weather – light wind and above-freezing temperatures – was a major stroke of good favor, Schweier said.
“Bristol was key,” Schweier said. “Those are the guys with the training and equipment” who were able to tell with certainty that the fire was out.
“If it had been worse, we would have really needed them,” Schweier said.
Along with Bristol and Monhegan firefighters, the Coast Guard responded to transport Bristol firefighters and their equipment from New Harbor to the island. Bristol, which only has a 16-foot rescue boat, called on the Coast Guard for transport because the 10-foot seas that night were “too rough for the local fishermen that usually take us out,” Pendleton said.
From the time they received the call, it took about 15 minutes for the Coast Guard to dispatch a 47-foot boat from Boothbay Harbor, said Coast Guard Chief Kris Demetros.
“We try to help whomever we can,” Demetros said.
In about 35-40 minutes the Coast Guard boat arrived in New Harbor. The ride to Monhegan took about 40 minutes, which was fast in the rough waters, Pendleton said.
“Most of the firefighters got seasick,” Pendleton said. “It wasn’t a pretty – or pleasant smelling – trip.”
After inspecting the scene of the fire and ensuring that it was out, Bristol returned to the mainland, arriving back in New Harbor at around 6 a.m.
“I’d call it a well organized effort to get out there, and an excellent job by everyone involved,” said Bristol Fire Chief Paul Leeman.
The fire is not being treated as suspicious, Leeman said.
General consensus in the light of day is that we were beyond lucky on Sunday night. It wasn’t very windy, it was REALLY warm for February and Sue Bolman’s well was full. The pumps didn’t freeze, the wind didn’t take the fire to surrounding houses or the backside and we were able to keep water on the walls until Bristol fire arrived. They were impressed by our ability to stop the fire before they got here, especially in light of the condition and age of our equipment.
I don’t want people to get the impression that we have a crack team of “hardy souls” who are more self-sufficient and capable than the average Joe. We were very lucky. Having said that, those I mentioned before did an incredible job of being careful and focused and persistent. I was there as back-up… I held flashlights and pulled kinks out of hoses and drove a truck to the wharf to help Bristol fire get to the scene. So I had time to watch the others and they were amazing. I left the scene at 5 a.m. but Jess, Matt, Dori, Stew and Marjorie stayed and readied the fire truck and equipment so that if we had another fire it would have been ready. We got lucky!
On a personal note… I do an unofficial people count every few days and it’s been around 27-30 for the majority of January and February. The actual resident count is barely 50 and at any given time there are 15-20 people off island, some in between boats, some for 4-6 week vacations. It’s very quiet here and I worry very much about who is coming along to be Assessors, or Fire Chief or Town Treasurer or Road Commissioner. We are an older population and a lot of people have more than done their time at those jobs. I think all the time about moving inshore. Because I’m in a MISCA house I don’t have the luxury of being able to be a seasonal summer resident so when I go it’s for good. It’s sad to think about, even though on a daily basis I’m not sad being here. I love the island.. the physicality and the elemental beauty of daily life. It feels like I’m in a hospice ward. We’re still technically alive but we all know the end is near. On that happy note… how’s the sunny south? If I ever have enough money to buy a ticket down you might find me parked on your sofa for a week or two. Don’t worry… it won’t happen this year but I would love to come for a visit.
I hope you are all well and using your sun screen. I hope you get to drink lots of fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas and eat really hot spicy food. Think of me feeding the woodstove, sliding along the ice with my ice grippers and trying to get up the hill to the museum with the wind blowing 40 m.p.h.!
P.S. The Lincoln County News has an article out today.
Ed Donegan died in his sleep last night. No details.
Monheganers can now contemplate the sort of sound that would accompany an on-island windmill, should one be built on your fair isle. Just listen to a podcast of an hourlong unedited recording of Fox Islands Windmills’ sound on Vinalhaven. Recorded midnight January 1st 2010, when sound meter registered 49-49 dBa. Recorded on porch of a house one half mile from closest windmill. Note the endless warbling “jet-engine” howl. Background “hiss” is wind in nearby tree branches. As reference, note wind chimes at 13 minutes and 30 seconds. For more info about the recording and related issues, go to Fox Island Wind Neighbors website.
With great sorrow I learned of Bob and Ann Bartels loss of their longtime pet (and friend), Shadrach. Shadrach, at 42, died suddenly. If you have a picture of the Island’s most famous parrot please either post it here or send it to me and I will do so for you.
This site needs an Art page – which needs an art editor/monitor. Some knowledge of art is necessary but more important is the ability to stimulate and embolden others to share their subjective Monhegan art experience.
It is all an experiment is sharing. If you are interested in exploring this possibility further, please contact Peter.
One way of thinking about “a commons” is that it is a resource shared by a group of individuals. The key word here is “sharing”. One can only share that which is his. In a strange sort way, the proof of having (owning, if you will) is in the giving of it to another. And in so doing, both the giver and the receiver are enriched.
Certainly it is possible to appreciate parts of Monhegan by yourself, but never all that is Monhegan. I am told that to love, one must “know” the beloved. But my capacity to know is limited and, if for no other reason, that is why I need others, especially those with different capacities from mine. My aptitudes do not include a capacity for poetry, but oh how I thrill at what the poet shares with me. We, the poet and I share Monhegan with each other by exercising our capacity to give it to another. The poet gives me her Monhegan poem, and I give her my photograph of Monhegan. Monhegan (the beloved) is what is being shared but from different perspectives.
One can argue that if one draws from the commons there is obligation to give back to the commons. OK, I guess, but I would prefer the realization that what I draw from the commons is enhanced geometrically in the sharing it with other Monheganites (those that identify with Monhegan). You know, something about feeding the 2000 with a couple of dead fish and a pair of stale loaves of bread. Look, don’t let my vocabulary tick you off. It is just how I see the multiplication of our Island. (Oh God, now he wants to bring 2000 to the Island? – well, in a way. Not directly and while that might not be desirable physically, how about using the Internet to share our Island with those that have eyes to see and ears to hear (oops there he goes again).
Hey guys, sharing Monhegan with Monheganites is a huge turn on. Some of you do so already with a post now and then. Good! but you can really get ignited by hosting (authoring) a page. Or share a page. How about a group of artists hosting a page, and develop a category on Monhegan art to share and solicit posts on art? Birding, anyone? There’s a group to work on the trails, right? Monhegan Essays? There are as many Monhegans as there are minds that envision it. There are over 400 visitors to this site everyday of the week! How do you experience the Island? Want to try sharing it? What do you want to share – keep it simple, and we’ll post it, modifying it only to provide consistency with the general site. Let’s experiment to see how vital this virtual community really is.