By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(April 26, 2018) A fire in downtown Berlin on Monday devastated a local business and shut down portions of Main Street for several hours.
Fire alarms sounded at about 8:25 a.m. and multiple agencies responded to a fire at the former Donaway Furniture Building on 11 South Main Street.
The blaze apparently originated inside Attics of My Life, a home décor business opened on March 18 by Ashley Abell and Brad Sonczewski. The building is also home to the shop Bird of Paradise.
Responding to the fire were the Berlin Fire Company and Berlin EMS, Berlin and Worcester County Police, Ocean City Fire Company, Ocean Pines EMS, and Bishopville Fire Company.
Fire personnel broke down the front door and thick plumes of smoke could be seen streaming out. They later used axes to shatter several small windows and create additional vents.
At least three firefighters were seen on the roof of the building, while others wore oxygen tanks to go inside. Long lines of hoses snaked down Main Street to fire hydrants, and dozens of people watched from nearby sidewalks.
Police on the scene said no injuries were reported, although a stretcher was brought out and EMS personnel briefly attended to Abell, who was not in the building, but arrived after the fire alarm and became distraught after seeing the damage to her store.
Smoke subsided and firefighters appeared to have the situation under control just after 9 a.m., although the town closed portions of Main Street and Bay Street for several hours “due to fire department activity.”
R.J. Rhode, 3rd assistant chief with the Berlin Fire Company, briefed the Berlin Town Council on the incident Monday night.
“They had a kitchen fire inside of the business,” Rhode said. “The fire was contained to the room of origin. There was some smoke damage and heat damage to the rest of the building, but the main area of the fire was kept to the room of origin.
“The exact cause is still under investigation with the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office,” he added.
Abell posted a statement on her Facebook on Monday.
“Gut wrenching. I don’t know what to do and feel like I cannot even put one foot in front of the other. I am doing this mass message as I’m getting phone calls and messages and I cannot speak. All the years and hard work …… gone.”
A post on the Attics of My Life Facebook page added, “This is devastating news but Attics of My Life endured a tragic fire and have primarily lost everything. Ashley and Brad are overwhelmed with what’s happened with the countless hours trying to open their dream business and everything being destroyed.
“No one was hurt and the firefighters were amazing! So thankful for their quick response and lending an extra helping hand with everything. The store will be closed until further notice. In addition, a thank-you to all the people that have reached out and the communities willingness to help can’t be put into words.”
By Monday night, a GoFundMe page was started to help Abell and Sonczewski.
A post on the site, started by Ocean Pines resident Colby Phillips, said, “This morning Ashley and Brad lost their business, Attics of My Life, in a fire in downtown Berlin, MD. They have put so much sweat and tears and love into creating this lifelong dream and the damage from the fire destroyed everything.
“Unfortunately, the insurance they had isn’t going to help much with the rebuilding of their shop. Any help that is able to be given, would be so greatly appreciated. It is times like these where we as a community need to come together and help. If you are unable to help financially, prayers are greatly appreciated!”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/attics-of-my-life-fire-fund.