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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Fire does $500K damage to dry cleaner

Joe Tuckey, Tecumseh fire chief, pokes through the ruins of Fabricare Dry Cleaners & Coin Laundry at 117 Herrick Park. Joe Tuckey, Tecumseh fire chief, pokes through the ruins of Fabricare Dry Cleaners & Coin Laundry at 117 Herrick Park.

TECUMSEH, Mich. - Dennis Irelan walked to the back of what used to be his dry cleaning business and said a word of thanks that no one had been inside when it went up in flames.

The building, at 117 Herrick Park, was a total loss. Only a small portion of the eastern wall remained, holding the blue-and-yellow sign advertising Fabricare Dry Cleaners & Coin Laundry.

Fire Chief Joseph Tuckey estimated damage to the 9,750-square-foot building at $500,000.

Firefighters were called to the scene at the north end of town yesterday morning to find the entire building engulfed in flames. No one was injured.

“We're going to rebuild,” promised Mr. Irelan, who recently expanded the business. “We've been in business for 20 years.”

The fire was reported about 12:15 a.m., Chief Tuckey said. Though it raced through the laundry business, the adjacent business escaped for the most part unscathed.

Cleaning crews yesterday afternoon were scrubbing down countertops and replacing ceiling tiles in Carter Rehabilitation Center, where the thick stench of smoke still hung in the air. The adjoining business was saved from fire by the cement fire wall that separated it from the coin laundry, said employee Debbie Ahlers.

The center was closed for business for the day, but director Bob Leffler promised that clients likely will be able to return for therapy by the end of the week.

“We're just cleaning it up, and we'll be ready to go,” he said. “Obviously, the biggest tragedy is the lost jobs over at the[coin laundry].”

Fabricare employs 18 people, Mr. Irelan said. He said he would continue to pay his full-time salaried people, who likely will help him get the business back on its feet.

The part-time workers, many of them local high school students, will have to get by on their own, he said.

As for those customers who had dry cleaning at the store, Mr. Irelan said his staff has an excellent idea of who lost items and that those people would be compensated.

“If it's a legitimate claim, we'll pay it,” he said. “We're not going to leave our customers hanging.”

Chief Tuckey said he doesn't know what caused the fire. He said he is hoping to get help from the Michigan State Police's fire investigation division.

He said that although the cold weather could have created problems, the temperatures were high enough so as not to cause any freezing.

“I'm just thankful that it wasn't cold enough to freeze anything,” he said. “My concern was that we would have firefighters slipping and sliding up and down the place, and that did not happen.”

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