Historic Berlin Home Badly Damaged In Fire; Community Rallies Support For Salvage Effort

Historic Berlin Home Badly Damaged In Fire; Community Rallies Support For Salvage Effort
Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – A historic South Main Street home suffered significant damage during a fire Tuesday afternoon.

Five fire companies responded to 414 S. Main St. shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday as smoke poured from the two story structure. Though the fire was quickly brought under control, the home — known locally as the Harvey P. Pruitt House, built in 1914 — suffered significant damage. Residents Julie and Henry Koenig were not home at the time of the fire.

“They don’t know yet if the house is salvageable,” said Linda Walls, Julie Koenig’s sister.

Walls said the family was devastated to lose two of their three cats in the fire. They’re also worried about the fate of the many family heirlooms in the home, which they’ve lived in for nearly 30 years, that were likely damaged in the fire.

“They’re still trying to process this,” Walls said. “They’re holding up well considering what they’ve been through.”

She was with the family Tuesday night as they surveyed the damage. Walls said they were gratified by the outpouring of support they received from neighbors.

“Even strangers came up to offer assistance,” she said. “I think the family was still in shock but they’re very appreciative.”

Walls said her sister, a nurse, was known to many in the community.

“She’s accustomed to helping everybody else,” she said. “People remember that and want to return the help.”

Less than 24 hours after the fire, Berlin resident Sherrie Beckstead created a Go Fund Me page (https://www.gofundme.com/helping-the-koenings-rebuild) to collect donations for the family.

“The Koenig’s have always taken such pride in their home, and as always had it beautifully decorated for the Christmas season which makes this particularly heartbreaking,” Beckstead wrote online. “Hank and Julie have always been the type to lend a hand to anyone in need and in this trying time for them we want to make it as easy as possible for them to get the resources they need to start the long process of determining what can be salvaged. They do have insurance but as we all know that does not cover everything.”

Walls said storage bins, to be used as the Koenigs sort through the home, and gift cards to places like Lowe’s would also be helpful.

While the family is upset, Walls said they were relieved that no people were injured and that winds didn’t carry the fire to neighboring homes. She added that the community support they’d already received was a blessing.

“Thank you for all your support in the circumstances, which are very tragic at Christmas time to have to endure,” she said.

Fire companies from Berlin, Showell, Ocean City, Ocean Pines and Powellville responded to the fire. As of Wednesday afternoon the cause of the fire was  undetermined, according to the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.