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$1 Million in Goods for Needy Lost to Fire

December 17, 1995|From Associated Press

DETROIT — Nine days before Christmas, fire destroyed a warehouse jammed with donated clothes, household goods and furniture that were to be distributed by one of the city's largest charities.

More than 100 firefighters and 30 trucks were sent to the four-building Society of St. Vincent de Paul complex after the blaze was reported Friday night. Crews finally extinguished the fire Saturday afternoon, more than 17 hours after it broke out.

The fire could not have come at a worse time, said worker James Coleman, who has sorted clothes for the charity for several years.

"But you know something? There's never a good time for something like this," he said. "It's just fortunate there wasn't anybody in there."

No injuries were reported.

The complex is in a rundown district of pawnshops and abandoned buildings near downtown. The charity operates nationwide, providing emergency housing, food, clothing, household goods, transportation, medical care and other services for the needy.

The blaze destroyed an estimated $1 million worth of goods collected for the needy and for distribution to 17 thrift stores in six counties of southeastern Michigan. About 60 people worked there.

The Catholic charity was still accepting donations and planned to distribute them directly to one of its stores or to donated warehouse space.

"It contained the hopes of so many for Christmas," Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida said as he surveyed the damage. "Anyone who had hoped for a special dress or a special toy or whatever, tell them to hold on. We'll be back."

An employee locking up for the night discovered the fire, said executive director James Carron.

He said the charity's first preference was to rebuild at the site.

Firefighters said the fire apparently started in a sorting area.

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