Man Living in Back Room Survives Two Fires at Courtesy Cleaners, Business Severely  Damaged

Man Living in Back Room Survives Two Fires at Courtesy Cleaners, Business Severely  Damaged

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 19, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – A man living in the back room of Courtesy Cleaners at 750 Livernois in Ferndale is the one who spotted two fires in the laundromat / dry cleaning facility Thursday night. The second fire has caused significant damage, leaving the business closed and neighboring businesses, and customers, impacted.

The first fire happened between 8 and 9 pm when the man noticed that a bag of rags that had been dropped off by a customer had smoke coming out of it, according to Interim Fire Chief Jack Pesha.  “The bag was smoldering, and when he brought it out to the parking lot, it met with all that oxygen and spontaneously combusted,” he said.

The man called the police non-emergency line rather than calling 911, delaying fire department response, but the fire in the bag was extinguished.

Nearly five hours later, at about 2am, the man called the non-emergency line again, reporting smoke in the building. He made it out safely, but the building and all the items inside are severely damaged.

The man, who is an employee of the business, had been living in the back room. “That’s not allowed. You can’t live in a commercial building like that,” Pesha said.  “That’s another matter that the city is going to be looking at.  We have codes to keep people safe… He’s lucky he’s alive.”

The man told fire fighters that he thought he’d been smelling smoke since the bag was removed earlier, but he thought it was just lingering from before.  He fell asleep and woke up to a smoke-filled building.

The roof of Courtesy Cleaners is made of steel rods and layers of a combustible material between two rubber membranes. When the fire reached the inside material, it spread through the roof.   “They had to take down a 50×50 section of the lining,” Pesha said.

It has yet to be determined if the two fires are related. The Ferndale Fire Department will be working with the owner’s insurance company to do a thorough investigation, which is likely to take several days due to the holiday weekend.  “The business will likely be closed for months at least,” he said.

The fire also impacted other tenants of the shopping center.  “Red Olive and Bigby couldn’t open today because of a plumbing issue,” he said. A pipe burst in the building during the effort to put out the blaze.  It was replaced Friday morning, but can’t be used for several hours as the pipe cures.

The fire also destroyed the belongings of customers that had been dropped off for cleaning.  “There’s a lot of people trying to get their stuff, and it’s devastating for some of them…  Very little, if anything, is salvageable in this,” Pesha said.

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