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Habitat tries to salvage what it can

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A worker carries out some of the items at the fire-leveled Habitat for Humanity ReStore that could be salvaged on Friday.

ALPENA –Odd, surreal, eerie and amazing.

That is how Habitat for Humanity Northeast Michigan Executive Director Ted Fines described being in a portion of the Habitat’s ReStore building on Friday after it had been devastated by fire Sunday.

Fines and other Habitat employees and volunteers were sorting though what was left of the inventory at the store in an attempt to salvage as many items as possible.

Surrounded by charred wood and ash, many glasses and porcelain knickknacks were still on display. Pictures and still-ticking clocks still hung on the wall, and clothes sat neatly folded or hung in closets, as they were before the fire began.

“It truly is amazing,” Fines said. “We’re trying to secure everything, and then store it. I was in the building Thursday when it was snowing, and it was very strange standing in it with snow falling through the roof and landing on our head. I noticed a clock that was still ticking and keeping perfect time, except it still needed to be set back an hour (from the end of Daylight Saving Time), and it was just a very surreal feeling to see all this destruction all around and so many things almost unharmed.”

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Amid the charred wreckage of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, some retail items seem miraculously unscathed.

Though some items survived the brunt of the fire, they are covered in ash and soot and stained from the smoke in which they were engulfed. Hopes are that much of it will be able to be cleaned and saved. That is going to take time, Fines said, because there are many things in motion right now, including his attempt to find a temporary location for the store, sorting out insurance matters, and still fulfilling the mission on the organization.

“We’ll still kicking and still trying to get back on our feet,” he said. “We have been knocked down, but we’re going to get back up again. A lot of people have reached out to us about possible locations to use, and we’re looking at one site now, but I really can’t say anything about it, yet.”

Fines said the ideal location would come with a month-to-month lease, because signing a long-term lease wouldn’t be practical. It may only take a year to two years to have a new store built at the site of the fire at the corner of Chisholm Street and 5th Avenue.

Officials believe the fire started because of an electrical short near the store’s rear entrance. When firefighters arrived shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday, the building was fully engulfed, and as a result, they took a defensive posture to protect surrounding structures, such as St. Bernard’s Catholic Church.

A pair of firefighters were injured while battling the blaze, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Amid the charred wreckage of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, some retail items seem miraculously unscathed.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Amid the charred wreckage of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, some retail items seem miraculously unscathed.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Amid the charred wreckage of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, some retail items seem miraculously unscathed.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Amid the charred wreckage of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, some retail items seem miraculously unscathed, such as the coat on this rack that says, "I can be washed."

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A worker displays a wicker chair on Friday that miraculously survived the Sunday fire that leveled the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Jason Finch carefully removes a decorative ceramic piece from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Alpena.