After fire, a plan to rebuild

Robin Wade and Ed Berg have challenges ahead to reopen the Corsican Cafe and Chowder House.

Robin Wade and her husband, Ed Berg, know they have much work to do in order to rebuild the Corsican Cafe and Chowder House on Mechanic Street in Freeport, which was destroyed by a fire that started in a second-floor bathroom early on the morning of Wednesday, April 27.

Their insurance company must get on the job, and the couple needs to line up contractors to rebuild the three-story wooden structure, which has a gaping hole in the roof and smoke damage just about everywhere. Wade and Berg, however, are not in panic mode.

“If we get going again by the fall season, I’ll be happy,” Berg said as he and Wade looked over the damage and spoke to passers-by. “Fall’s an awfully good season here. We’re looking to the insurance company, and we’ll need a contractor.”

Wade and Berg also are getting a little help from their friends at the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Stephanie Petkers, who spoke with Wade after the fire was extinguished in mid-morning, has set up a relief fund for the couple throught Bath Savings Institution. Donations can be made to the Corsican Fire Relief Fund in person at any Bath Savings Institution branch or by mailing a check made out to Corsican Fire Relief Fund, c/o Bath Savings Institution, P.O. Box 160, Freeport, ME 04032.

“We have heard from many of the nonprofits in town that Ed and Robin have been very generous in their support of the community, so we welcome this opportunity to give back by supporting them,” Petkers said.

Wade said she closed the restaurant early – at 3:30 p.m. – on April 26 because of the late spring snowstorm. Corsican Cafe and Chowder House had opened for the season in April, and had 10 employees for the spring season, including Wade and Berg.

“Everything was normal,” said Wade, who has owned the restaurant for 30 years.

Berg said that an officer from the State Fire Marshal’s Office told him that a fan that had been left on in a second-floor bathroom started the fire, through faulty wiring. The fire spread in back of the three-story buiding and caused lesser damage to R.D. Allen Freeport Jewelers and two apartments above it on Middle Street, Fire Chief Darrel Fournier said.

There were no injuries to inhabitants of the buildings or to firefighters, Fournier said.

“It’s a loss,” the chief said. “The crews did an excellent job saving the other building.”

Fournier said that the first call went out at 3:02 a.m., and the first Freeport truck arrived there seven minutes later. Crews had the blaze under control by 4:30, he said.

“There was heavy fire to the rear of the second story,” Fournier said. “It’s a three-story, wood-frame building. The exposure had the siding and the roof smoking to the building in back. We went to a second alarm.”

Just last autumn, during the Freeport Fall Festival, the Corsican was awarded winner of the the People’s Choice Award in Chowder Challenge 2016. Wade and Berg proudly display the People’s Choice Award banner in front of the eatery. They also added the words “and Chowder House” to the name, and built a cafe out back.

Berg put everything into perspective.

“We have a nice home to go to, and no one was hurt,” he said.

The Freeport Fire Department got mutual aid from Brunswick, Topsham, Pownal and Yarmouth battling the fire. Falmouth and Cumberland covered the station during the fire.

Freeport firefighters cut a vent in the roof early on the morning of Wednesday, April 27, as they battle a raging fire at the Corsican Cafe and Chowder House on Mechanic Street in Freeport.

Robin Wade, owner of the Corsican Cafe and Chowder House on Mechanic Street in Freeport, looks up at the damage to the restaurant as she talks to cleaning service people on Wednesday, April 27. A fire early that morning destroyed the three-story building.

Ed Berg gestures as he talks to passers-by on Wednesday, April 27,  outside the Corsican Cafe and Chowder House on Mechanic Street in Freeport. A fire early that morning destroyed the building owned by Berg and his wife, Robin Wade.