Fire official says Bridgeville fire deliberately set

By Lynn R. Parks

The state fire marshal has determined that a fire that destroyed an old store building in Bridgeville's downtown last week was deliberately set. Jerry Butler, Bridgeville's code enforcement officer, has ruled that the Market Street building, which housed an antiques store, will have to be condemned, said Bridgeville town manager Bonnie Walls. Damages were estimated by the fire marshal to be $200,000. "This whole thing is really scary," Walls said. "If the wind had been right, that whole block could have burned down." Walls added that until recently, a family had occupied the building's upstairs apartment. At the time of the fire, the apartment was unoccupied. According to the fire marshal's office, firefighters from four departments, Bridgeville, Greenwood, Seaford and Federalsburg, Md., responded to the Wednesday, Aug. 27, blaze. Firefighters arrived at the building at around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday to find heavy smoke and flames at the rear of the structure. The upstairs apartment was heavily damaged by the fire, the fire marshal's office said. The downstairs, where Pioneer Antiques was located, suffered smoke and water damage. Andre Beulah, Federalsburg, Md., owns the building with his mother, Doris, and operated the antiques store. He said on Friday that about 80 percent of the antiques that were in the store were saved. "There was some smoke damage, but we can clean that up," he said. Water damage was minimal, he added, because firefighters covered much of the furniture with heavy tarps. "The important thing is that nobody was hurt," he said. "That's what's so scary about all of this, that somebody could have lost a life. And that somebody has that much disregard for human life."

Beulah said that his antiques are in the process of being cleaned. He plans to move then into another Market Street building that he owns, across the street from the building that burned, and reopen his shop. "I want to be open again by the Apple-Scrapple Festival," set for Oct. 10 and 11, he said. Beulah's family has been in the antique business in Bridgeville for 35 years, he said. His father, Shelton, who is deceased, started the business in the building that is still standing and that is currently used for storage. The business was moved across the street about 30 years ago, Andre Beulah said. "We'll still have our business in Bridgeville," Beulah said. "We're not going to let a thing like this fire push us out of here." Beulah said that he does not know what will come of the property where the burned out building sits. He has not yet talked with the town or with his insurance company, he said. The old frame building, with large display windows on either side of the front door, dates from the early 20th century, said Ralph Scott Jr., Seaford, whose great uncle Charles M. Scott built it for a general store. Scott, born in 1934, said that he remembers going into the store as a child, when 5 cents could buy a loaf of bread. "It had barrels and barrels sitting in there, filled with flour and salt fish," Scott said. "I can remember that I always wanted to reach in and get a fish." Scott said that Charles sold the store to his nephew, Norman H. Scott, who in turn sold it to his son, J. P. Scott. J. P., who eventually owned a men's clothing store in town, sold it to J. Edwin James. James operated a grocery store in the building from 1949 until 1979.

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