CORINNA, Maine — The future of a retail and antiques auction house was jeopardized Monday afternoon when fire destroyed the business and virtually everything stored inside.
D’Ann and David Ireland were preparing to debut Ireland Auction and Retail this spring in a building on Route 43 known by locals as “The Auction Barn” less than a mile from Corinna village. Those preparations included renovation of much of the building by D’Ann Ireland’s father, Marc Leslie of Madison.
Leslie was alone, fixing frozen pipes at one end of the building at about 1:20 p.m. Monday when a motorist, who Leslie said was an off-duty police officer, stopped and told him smoke was pouring from a far corner of the building.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Leslie Monday as firefighters from five towns doused the blaze. “I didn’t know anything was happening.”
By the time the first firefighters arrived, including Corinna Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Richards, smoke and flames were pouring from at least two sides of the building, which is located near the intersection of Route 43 and Greenbush Road.
“The whole town was covered in black smoke,” Richards told reporters. No one was injured in the blaze.
The fire, fed by a stiff wind, spread through the building despite a steady drizzle and torrents of water sprayed on it by firefighters. The effort was complicated by the fact that much of the building housed antique furniture among other items, including a stash of hay in one area.
Corinna Fire Chief Leslie Bolstridge said falling ice in the rear of the building severed a propane line near a burning wall, causing the propane in the line to burn off.
“It was just residual; there was hardly anything in the tanks,” said Bolstridge, who said the propane burned out within “a few seconds” without causing any injuries.
Some firefighters used chain saws to gain access to the wooden front of the building while others systematically pulled down sheets of steel that covered the sides and back. Route 43 was closed to traffic for much of the afternoon as rescue vehicles and long hose runs blocked the road.
D’Ann and David Ireland, wiping away tears and embracing each other as they watched their venture go up in smoke, said they have traveled throughout New England and beyond to amass antiques and collectibles, which they said filled much of the building.
“I can’t believe this happened,” said D’Ann Ireland. “This was our family business. I can’t believe it’s gone.” The Irelands are known locally as the owners of the former D&D Discount in Newport. D’Ann Ireland said she and her husband bought the building in Corinna last fall because their business had outgrown its Newport location.
Bolstridge said he had “no idea” how the fire started, but he estimated that at least three-quarters of the structure was burned beyond repair. An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was planning to investigate the scene, said a woman who answered the phone late Monday afternoon.
The building has been home to several auction companies over the years, according to Corinna Town Manager Dalton Mullis. Years ago, it was the headquarters of Raynor “Razor” Crosman, a colorful and well-known local man who sold cattle and some antiques from the building. Crosman died in 1991. Ownership of the building has changed hands several times over the years, according to Roger Chesley, owner of Chesley’s Auction Gallery in Corinth.
“I’ve been in the auction business for 31 years, and there were auctions going on there before me,” he said.
The Irelands, who represented the latest chapter in the story of the longtime auction house, said they don’t know what they’ll do in the aftermath of the fire, though they said the building was insured.