WESTMINSTER — As John Hosfeld watched smoke and water invade his Main Street flower business Sunday night, it was obvious to him where he'd have to temporarily set up shop -- in a back room of a competing florist up the street.
"We work together, so this is nothing new," said Hosfeld, the owner since 1965 of The Flower Box, one of three businesses heavily damaged by Sunday's five-hour, $500,000 blaze.
Since Monday, he and his staff have been working out of a small back office at Stewart N. Dutterer Flower Shop Inc., six blocks away at 114 Pennsylvania Ave.
"When they need something, we help," Hosfeld said. "When we need something, they're always there."
The move is short term -- Hosfeld expects to be back in his store later today or tomorrow. But even though the offer of space by Dutterer's owner Eileen Gist was par for the course between the two competitors, it left at least one longtime resident stunned.
"That was just amazing,"said Mayor W. Benjamin Brown. "I've lived in this county 22 years, and never seen anything like that."
Others in the community were there with a helping hand Sunday night, as the sandwiches, pizza, doughnuts, coffee, juice and comforting conversation flowed almost as furiously as the flame-fighting water did.
"It has been great," said Police Chief Sam R. Leppo. "This is the fourth major fire I've been on, and every time people come through."
The "people" included Kay D'Eugenio, owner of La Strada Groceria at 15 E. Main St.
"By the end of the night, I couldn't talk," she said.
No wonder: She helped slice up more than 60 loaves of bread, five cooked hams and several dozen hoagie rolls. Her small shop was teeming with firefighters, eager to get their hands on the free ham sandwiches and hot cups of coffee.
"There were lots of people all over the place," she said. "It looked almost like people were out for a parade."
While D'Eugenio provided the knife-power, it was the SuperFresh grocery and Sheetz convenience market that provided the food.
Sheetz, at Main Street andWashington Boulevard, donated dozens of cups of coffee, doughnuts and -- because of demand from the firefighters -- cigarettes.
"That's one of the things the firefighters came in and asked for," D'Eugenio said.
For the SuperFresh manager on duty Sunday night, providingfood to firefighters was a natural gesture.
"If they ever need help, we're always there," said Richard Dell, a 25-year member of the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company and a past president of the Carroll County Volunteer Fireman's Association. "As a firefighter, it always makes me feel good when people look out for us."
SuperFresh came through with two hams, 50 loaves of white bread, dozens of eggs and gallons of orange juice, all at a cost of about $190, Dell said.
Most of the bread and ham were assembled at La Strada into simple ham sandwiches, Dell said.
For those firefighters uninterested in sandwiches or doughnuts, Domino's Pizza in the 140 Village delivered about 20 cheese and pepperoni pizzas.
"At first, we were looking for helping the folks who were going to be homeless," said Colleen McGreevy,the manager on duty Sunday night. "But then we got word that some ofthe firefighters would like some pizza. So we sent a couple of batches in, some of them with pepperoni slices arranged in smile faces."
The cost of the 20 large pies totaled almost $200, she said.
At least two other groups provided some respite for the firefighters andfor many of the 250 or so onlookers milling about the fire scene. The women's auxiliaries of both the Westminster and Union Bridge fire companies were on hand most of the night.
Others, such as employeesof the Winchester Exchange and other Main Street business owners, were on hand to deliver the food and drink to firefighters.
"It's great when the fellas realize that the community is behind them," said Westminster Chief Jay S. Nusbaum. He said that the food and encouragement boosts the firefighters' morale.
"It does wonders for them."