Fire victims wait and clean

Published 12:29 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday marked a day of uncertainty for those who were affected by the fire that shut down three downtown businesses only a day earlier.

As a professional cleaning crew boarded up windows in Dave’s Fitness Coaching, the owners of the building and the Red Thread Studio also located there tried to find out when power would be restored so that the crew could use its equipment.

Next door, David Donaldson, who operates the Cherry Gift Shop along with his sister, Ida Cherry, was using a long-handled squeegee to wash the outside of his store’s windows.

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“I’m trying to make this look a little better for my neighbors,” he said.

Thursday’s two-alarm fire, which started in an upstairs apartment used for storage by the gift shop, destroyed that apartment. Water and smoke ruined everything in Donaldson’s shop below, and he said he expects to clear everything out during the weekend.

“This shop is going to be empty on Monday,” he said.

Angelia and Steve Armstrong, who own the building that houses the Red Thread Studio and Dave’s Fitness, face similar problems with their stock.

Since their shop specializes in fabric goods, they don’t expect to salvage much of its inventory. An insurance adjuster already has examined the damages to their building, but a separate one is needed to evaluate the contents, and he had not visited the store by 5 p.m. Friday.

Their upstairs tenant, Dave Immel, has a different problem. Though he had no inventory to worry about losing, Immel found when he got into his business Friday that every exposed, horizontal surface is now covered in soot.

Although the black film is easy to wipe off the metal surfaces, anything that’s made of plastic or rubber — including the rubber floor mat that sits under the equipment — has been permeated with the substance. It’s unclear how much of the equipment and fixtures in his second-floor facility is salvageable.

Immel still hasn’t heard whether his insurance will cover his damages, and he’s already canceled appointments with clients for the foreseeable future. Until he gets some answers, he said, he’ll just have to wait.

“I’m going to hang out and see what progresses,” he said, trying to stay upbeat as he watched the cleanup crew working on his level. “It’s looking better every minute.”

Through the doorway that leads back downstairs is the apartment where the fire started, though investigators haven’t yet determined its cause, according to a city spokesperson.

It’s a scene of devastation, with a burned-up wooden door lying atop a heap of roofing materials and other debris left over from the fire. Daylight streams into the apartment through a missing roof and wall.

But Donaldson, who discovered the fire burning on Thursday morning in an area that had been the apartment’s kitchen, remained upbeat.

His landlord, Suffolk Property Development, had already promised to get to work on the roof on Monday, he said.

“That’s a real good sign for the city of Suffolk.”