Post Office, Store and Residence Destroyed by Fire

Posted: May 16, 2008, 18:05:11 pm by jim

For those of you who know me personally, know that I care a great deal about the island and the people that live there year-round. This news hit me like a punch in the gut...

Post Office and store building burned to the ground on Monday as island firefighters struggled to keep flames from spreading to nearby buildings and oil tanks on the waterfront.

Post Office and Centenial Building from a 1900 postcard.

Jen and I own a home on this island but we don't live there. We get to use our cottage and enjoy the island when the conditions are perfect: summer, mild weather, less fog, fewer nor'easters, less unflyable weather, fewer rough seas, and definitely no snow nor freezing weather. We have no need to acquire heating fuel in a place where, weather pending, a fuel truck may arrive on the docks once a month. It's then up to you, or the decency of your neighbors, to get that fuel into a drum and into your house.

A friend who lives there year-round sumned up the mood:

"The fire which took out the newly renovated post office, one man's apartment and everything he owned, the almost-ready new store, and a historical collection was the big kahuna, but it was actually only the largest of a long list of reasons to be anxious, to be tired, to be a little bit gun-shy. We're walking around sort of...ready to duck."
-- Eva Murray writing in Down East Magazine

That Jen and I just visit the island and our cottage in the perfect, easy times gives me pangs of guilt (can't explain why, it just is).

Post Office and residence before the fire, June 2004.

Losing this Post Office is a big deal. For one, it's one of the primary gathering places on the island. It was a historic building, too. It had just been renovated, at some expense, but its new owner (a private resident, the USPS just leases the space from him) had just nearly put the finishing touches on the Post Office. The newly constructed island store had not even opened for business was also destroyed.

I have every reason to think that the US Postal Service will continue service to the island. Still, I shudder at the thought of losing service. While residents have internet, satellite tv, and electricity -- they do not have a store of any kind. Residents rely on the fax-ordered grocery services from the Shaw's in Rockland for their daily/weekly needs. The groceries are often flown out out on the mail plane. That steady contract with the USPS, I would imagine (I'm just guessing now), helps keep the very small regional airline Penobscot Island Air in business, or at least helps keep shipping and passenger fares affordable.

I shouldn't mention it last here, but a family has also lost their home and most of their possessions.

I don't know if there is an official way to contribute to those impacted by this fire, but if I find out, I will post information here.

Image courtesy of Jasmine Ames, by way of Village Soup

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