By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
SANDY LAKE —
Business owners affected by Wednesday's fire in Sandy Lake are in the throes of how they will rebuild their livelihoods.
Janet Ebbert's business, Ebbert's Hardware at 2363 S. Main St., suffered the most damage, but she was too busy to speak to media on Thursday, she said, adding that the cause of the fire was still undetermined.
Attached to Ebbert's is Alora Donna Flowers, where owner Debbie Millero was answering questions for media Thursday - and waiting to see how much she would get from insurance to restock merchandise, which was damaged by water.
Firefighters kept the blaze from entering the flower shop, but some of the flames had spread to the ceiling.
"I'm amazed they were able to contain it,” Millero said. "We're fortunate we did not lose everything. It could be a lot worse. It's miraculous the flower coolers are still working.”
Owner of the shop for seven years, Millero said she returned from making a delivery in Mercer and saw smoke coming from the complex and a man out front unsuccessfully trying to call 911.
Unsure where the smoke originated, "I looked in (Ebbert's) and saw the smoke in there," said Millero, who grabbed her phone and called 911, which received the call around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Ebbert's closed at noon that day. "I think, 'What if I hadn't had those deliveries, would I have smelled the smoke?' " Millero said. "I felt so helpless ... watching it go on."
Thursday she was waiting for an assessor to determine the damage. She was able to make one delivery, but her Teleflora account was suspended; Millero had to unplug all her electronics anyway.
"I didn't have much inventory coverage. This is going to hurt," she said. She rents the commercial space, which would be insured by her landlord.
"I feel really bad; it's a shame for the people here," said postmaster Ray Cready.
Sandy Lake post office is attached to Alora Donna, but was not damaged by the fire; however, employees cleared the building of all mail and transferred it via their vehicles to Stoneboro post office, Cready added.
"We share the roof with the flower shop and it was an immediate danger," Cready said. "We couldn't do business anyway," he added, since Main Street in Sandy Lake was closed until evening.
The mail was returned Thursday morning and employees were back on track.
"We didn't skip a beat," Cready said. "It's a little smoky but not as bad as what the others suffered."
Cready transferred from New Galilee to be postmaster a month ago. "This was my 'Welcome to Sandy Lake,'" he said.
A state police fire marshal has been investigating the blaze, which drew fire companies from Sandy Lake, Stoneboro, Grove City, Mercer, Sheakleyville, Pine Township, Jackson Center, Polk, Utica and Cochranton.
Millero was anxious to get back to work, since this is prom season. "I have a lot of work in there," she said.
Her husband was going to retire, "But maybe this is a sign he shouldn't," she said.
Millero was thankful to the firefighters and community for their work and generosity during this trying time.
"I had people texting me all night to give their help and people offering storage for the flowers," she said. "Bless their hearts -- so many people came up and hugged me."
Published April 27, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.