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Fire ravages Veranda House, other buildings in downtown Nantucket Saturday

Staff, guests all safely evacuated; three firefighters treated for injuries

The Veranda House on Nantucket suffered significant damage in a fire Saturday.Jim McIntosh, Inquirer and Mirr

Nantucket officials hailed the heroic actions of residents who helped evacuate people during an early morning blaze Saturday that tore through the historic Veranda House hotel and several other buildings.

The fire left two firefighters hospitalized for heat exhaustion and a third being treated for a back injury, as crews fought the blaze in the tight quarters of Nantucket’s downtown area, but no other injuries.

At the scene, 17 Nantucket firefighters were assisted by a dozen comrades from several Cape Cod communities.

Officials credited the rescuers, including an off-duty Nantucket fire captain, for evacuating everyone before the responding crews arrived at the scene.

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“The actions of the citizens and the Captain saved lives,” the Nantucket Fire Department said in a statement early Saturday afternoon.

Jeanette Ives Erickson, interim president of Nantucket Cottage Hospital, confirmed in a statement that “several individuals were treated . . . for injuries sustained while responding to the fire at Veranda House hotel.”

Erickson’s statement released Saturday night also thanked the island’s fire department “and all emergency personnel, including the many firefighters from Cape Cod who came to assist. “Their swift response, in addition to the selfless actions of several civilians nearby, saved many lives today,” she said.

The fire was first reported in a 911 call around 6:45 a.m., according to the fire department’s statement.

As the fire at 3 Step Lane spread to several nearby buildings, extensive flames grew in at least two of them, according to the department.

Fire engulfed the Veranda House. Deane Geddes, Inquirer and Mirr

Officials did not say how many people were displaced or give an estimated cost of the damage.

“Damage to the structures involved is extensive with several of the buildings being total losses,” the statement said.

State Police troopers assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office were working with local officials to investigate what sparked the blaze, along with the Nantucket Police Department.

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“Fire department personnel are still on scene and expected to be so for an extended period. This will be a long term operation,” the statement said.

The hotel, owned by an affiliate of Procaccianti Companies of Cranston, R.I., said in a Facebook posting that it is working with investigators.

The hotel was purchased in 2019 for more than $4.1 million, according to public records. According to a town visitor’s guide, the hotel was completely renovated in 2020.

“The safety and security of our guests, team, and community is our top priority and we will continue to work closely with emergency responders and safety authorities,” the Procaccianti statement said.

The loss of the 18-room hotel will be felt on the island. The Veranda House dated back to the 17th century and has long been part of life on Nantucket. It was erected in 1684, according to town assessor’s records.

In 1881, Nathan Chapman purchased the property and converted it into a boarding house, according to the Nantucket Historical Association.

Among well-known guests at the hotel was Fred Rogers, the longtime host of the PBS children’s television series “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” the hotel said in a Facebook post in May.

Rogers, who spent summers on Nantucket before his death in 2003 at age 74, would host his birthday breakfast at the inn, according to the post.

Many Nantucket residents were employed at the Veranda House, according to Jason M. Bridges, the chairman of Nantucket’s Select Board.

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He called the fire tragic in an e-mail to the Globe.

“We hope everyone is OK,” Bridges said. “In times like this, the community comes together to help.”

Videos on social media showed the extent of the fire’s destruction. Billowing smoke and towering flames erupted from the inn. The hotel’s distinctive verandas — decorated with red, white, and blue bunting — were consumed by the fire.

One video showed part of the charred building collapsing.

National Grid reported about 180 customers were without power for a few hours Saturday morning due to the fire.

A local news site, the Nantucket Current, reported that a newspaper delivery woman spotted the fire and called first responders. The off-duty fire captain then entered the building, found two people in a hallway, and helped them evacuate safely.

The fire captain attempted to continue searching, but was driven back by the intense heat and smoke, the statement said.

“The Captain and others entered into dangerous conditions without protective equipment to assure everyone got out of the building,” the statement said.

By the time on-duty crews arrived, all patrons of the hotel were reported to have been evacuated, the statement said. Heavy fire conditions “did not allow for firefighter entry.”

When the fire broke out, the Rev. Peter Keady, who was staying with his wife at a bed-and-breakfast about two blocks from the Veranda House, said he heard sirens shortly before 7 a.m.

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The couple had been celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, and Keady, a fire chaplain from Easton, Pa., realized the sirens were close by.

He looked outside, saw the smoke, and walked to the scene, he told the Globe in an interview.

“I was concerned about the first responders and their safety, that’s my bent as a first responder chaplain,” Keady said in a Facebook message. “Not a good fire given the close quarters of Nantucket.”




John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.