There isn’t much left of the Wheaton’s furniture store in Berwick, N.S., after fire ripped through the building Sunday evening, leaving behind a pile of destruction.
“When we arrived, the connecting buildings were both fully engulfed,” said Chief Wayne Johnstone, Waterville and District Fire Department. “We concentrated our efforts in trying to save another portion of the building, which we were fortunately able to do.”
The Berwick location was the original Wheaton’s store for the family-run company. The store opened its doors in 1990 and was a staple in the community.
“It’s disheartening to see it. I mean this is where Wheaton’s started,” said Melissa Reeves, marketing manager, Wheaton’s.
Seventy-five firefighters from eight different stations spent hours battling the stubborn blaze.
“It’s not necessarily a hard fire to fight, it was just that it was a lot of fire to fight,” Johnstone said.
“It was all done from the outside. We could not make any attempts at first to get in the inside. Once we had it contained, we were able to get in to make sure we had stopped it before it had entered the other building,” Johnstone told Global News.
The Berwick store’s cafe was also destroyed in the fire. The owner of the store was too upset to speak with Global News.
“You know, it’s a building and no one was hurt, so that’s basically the main thing,” said Reeves.
Wheaton’s officials have not said whether they will rebuild the store. Most of the 20 people who worked at the location had been with the company for more than a decade.
Reeves says the first thing the company needs to do is get things in order to continue operations at the five other Wheaton’s stores across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“Our office is completely gone and all our documentation is gone, so right now we are scrambling to set up a new office,” she said.
Furniture will continue to be produced by the company’s woodworking shop. The store says they will reimburse customers who put down payments on items that were destroyed.
While the damage is still being surveyed, fire officials say the blaze could have been a lot worse.
“There was virtually no wind yesterday when the fire started. If the wind was what it’s like today, we would have had much more of a task to handle,” Johnstone said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.