Published: June 12, 2007
Everyone’s worst nightmare became reality at Coyle’s Auction House on the afternoon of June 6 when a fast-moving three-alarm fire ravaged the 22-year-old auction gallery. Elizabeth Coyle and an employee were working in the building when the fire alarm sounded. They immediately evacuated the building and called the Bellingham Fire Department, which responded within minutes to find the first floor engulfed in flames. The fire spread throughout the structure rapidly and firefighters were forced to battle the blaze from outside the building, fearing the structure would cave in. The roof collapsed soon thereafter.
The fire was extinguished within a couple of hours, although the rubble was still smoldering the next afternoon. Two Bellingham fire engines continued to soak down the site the following day. Police and insurance adjusters were also on hand. The gallery was set to be leveled as soon as the fire was completely extinguished.
It was difficult to see anything salvageable in the rubble, although firefighters did retrieve some charred ledgers and a three-ring binder for the scheduled June 12 auction. Approximately one-third of the material for the sale was on site; the rest was in the process of being collected when the fire occurred.
Bellingham fire chief Richard Ranieri said firefighters from Bellingham, Milford and Franklin, Mass., and Woonsocket, R.I., responded to the smoky fire, which required every bit of manpower available. He added, “You hate to see a local business like this destroyed, but it’s even harder when there are injuries or loss of life.”
Nancy Coyle Wyman and Michael Coyle, who, along with their mother, Elizabeth, own the gallery, were grateful that everyone got out safely. Wyman said the probable cause was electrical, although fire officials will conduct a thorough investigation. The building was previously occupied by a restaurant and before that it served as the Polish American Club. Some years ago it was moved to the site from Woonsocket, R.I., where it had housed the YMCA.
At midday the following afternoon, the Coyle family was coming to grips with the destruction. Their primary concern was their consignors and clients, and starting over. Wyman said the gallery is fully insured and consignors and clients will be paid for any losses. She said the gallery will now have to determine the next step. Auctions will resume, stated Wyman, although no date was established at press time.
The Coyle family has long been a solid fixture in the community, and support from neighbors, consignors and customers has been overwhelming. The fire chief of a neighboring community is a steady customer at the biweekly auctions. Other Coyle clients and consignors have expressed support and sympathy for the devastating loss.
The fire was the subject of conversation at an area auction a few days later and the consensus was that the Coyles have worked hard, run an honest operation and everyone looks forward to their future return to business.
Coyle’s posted a message on the auction house website the day after the sale reassuring clients, consignors and friends that insurance claims are being filed on their behalf and thanking them for their messages of sympathy. “The Coyle Family is touched by the overwhelming outpouring of support and comfort,” the message said. “In the last 22 years we have had the honor and privilege to have wonderful consignors and customers who have become like family to us.”
The auction gallery will post announcements about future sales on the website. For information, 508-883-1659 or www.coylesauction.com .
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