Firefighter dies in blaze in own home

Was volunteer in West Tisbury

By Jeannie Nuss
Globe Correspondent / February 1, 2010

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WEST TISBURY - Firefighters arriving at a blaze on Christiantown Road knew the house belonged to Daniel Prowten, a volunteer with the West Tisbury Fire Department for more than 30 years.

“At first, we had hoped that perhaps the occupant was off island, away,’’ said West Tisbury assistant fire chief John Early.

Then, they saw both of Prowten’s vehicles in the driveway.

The fire was so fierce and the temperatures so frigid that it was five hours after the 5 a.m. call before anyone could get inside. It was too late: Prowten, a 63-year-old off-duty firefighter, had died.

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said the fatal fire early Saturday was probably accidental, though the exact cause will not be disclosed until Prowten’s autopsy is completed.

Prowten lived alone, and no one else was in the home, Early said. He had a daughter and former wife, who could not be reached yesterday.

More than 50 firefighters from four towns responded to the blaze, which kept officers on the scene until 5 p.m. Saturday, Early said. No injuries were reported.

Partial walls were all that remained of the house that Prowten had built by hand, Early said.

The West Tisbury volunteer fire department is reeling from the loss of one of its own. The station will be draped with bunting and a flag will be flown at half-staff, Early said.

“He’s had a presence here for more than 30 years, and there’ll be a big hole there for us to deal with,’’ Early said.

Prowten had recently stepped down as lieutenant in the department to return to his position as a volunteer firefighter.

“He was one of our best people,’’ said Early, who worked with Prowten as an emergency medical technician. “He was a tremendous asset to not only the fire department, but to the community.’’

Early recalled one fire where he struggled to keep Prowten from going back into a building.

“It was a daunting prospect, because he was determined that he was going to fight the fire with everything he had,’’ Early said.