OCEAN CITY — With no casualties and only one minor injury to a firefighter, Wednesday evening’s massive blaze that consumed the top floor of a midtown Ocean City condominium building could have been much worse but it has left many picking up the pieces.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) received a call about a residential fire at the Bradley on the Bay complex at 37th Street. First arriving units encountered heavy fire and thick black smoke extending from one of the 15-unit buildings in the center of the complex that could be seen as far away as West Ocean City and Berlin.
Because of the enormity of the blaze, firefighters quickly set up defensive tactics in an attempt to confine the fire and keep it from spreading to other buildings within the complex. Six families, including nine adults and three children, occupied the building at the time of the fire, but all were able to escape unharmed. One Ocean City firefighter working close to the blaze suffered minor burns on one ear, but was treated at AGH and cleared to return to work.
The OCFD responded with equipment and manpower and were supported during the battle with crews from Berlin, Showell, Ocean Pines and Bethany. According to Ocean City Fire Department spokesman Steve Price, it became evident early on the responding crews would have to utilize defensive tactics to prevent the blaze from spreading further.
“There was just too much fire and too much smoke,” said Price yesterday. “We knew right away we had to take a defensive tact on this one.”
Price said equipment and manpower were deployed to connect a vast network of hoses and gear from water sources all over the area for a couple of blocks in each direction. Price said he was stationed on the north side of the building and hoses were stretched all the way across to a water source on the north side of the Convention Center a few blocks away.
Early on, there were concerns voiced at the scene about some of the hydrants in the immediate area and Price confirmed some of those issues yesterday.
“Initially, there was a hydrant not functioning properly, but it was resolved quickly and did not hamper our efforts,” he said.
Those efforts included completely saturating the building involved in the fire for nearly five hours until the fire was brought under control. Fire crews remained at the scene overnight and into the early morning to control potential rekindles inside the structure. At around 9:15 a.m. yesterday, the fire scene was officially turned over to the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office for an investigation.
Price said all five units on the third floor were destroyed and three units on the second floor suffered significant fire damage. All 15 units in the building suffered significant smoke and water damage and the two adjacent building suffered heat damage to vinyl siding.
“The bottom line is, at the end of the day, everybody went home safe and we can be thankful for that,” said Price yesterday.
The displaced victims were already being assisted late Wednesday by the American Red Cross, which was tending to their immediate needs.
By early Thursday morning, a Bradley on the Bay Fire Relief Fund was already well underway thanks to the efforts of local resident Monica Hanshaw, a server at Fager’s Island who worked with and knew many of the displaced victims. By yesterday morning, Hanshaw was in the process of setting up an account at the Bank of Ocean City for donations and a Pay Pal account for on-line donations. In addition, several drop-off sites have already been established for clothing and other supplies to help get the displaced victims back on their feet.
“Some of the employees I worked with this summer at Fager’s lived there, but I’m trying to get things started to help all of the victims,” said Hanshaw yesterday. “There were two people from Fager’s who just got married last weekend and I think they lost everything.”
By mid-day yesterday, the Bradley on the Bay Relief Fund was already being established at the Bank of Ocean City and the Pay Pal account was up and running with all donations dedicated to the victims’ needs.
In addition, the relief effort is also taking donations of clothes and other supplies for the victims with drop-off sites already established at Fager’s, Fish Tales and the O.C. Floor Gallery.
In neighboring Delaware, drop-off locations have also been established at Weller’s Utility Trailers and Weller’s Clearance Center, for example.
By late yesterday, the list of drop-off sites and those wanting to help was growing so fast that not all could be included here.
For a complete list of accounts in which to make monetary donations and locations accepting drop-off donations, visit the Bradley on the Bay Relief Fund Facebook page. More information on how to help the displaced victims will be provided by The Dispatch as it becomes available.