On Tuesday, Jan. 9, before Meins could make the decision on her own, a fire in the business' boiler room, which is located in the building's southeast corner, broke out at approximately 12:50 p.m.
The emergency call was placed at 12:56 p.m., and 25 to 30 members of the Vermillion Volunteer Fire Department along with more than six emergency vehicles and other personnel were on the scene within a few minutes. When the department arrived, smoke was discovered to be spewing from the roof line and the eaves of the structure.
No customers were in the business at the time of the fire, but Meins and one of her employees were working.
The fire originated directly above the boiler in the venting system that leads to the ceiling. The blaze then quickly spread to the ceiling and throughout its structural contents.
Following safety precautions, the VFD had portions of Austin, Main and other surrounding streets blocked off accordingly. The flames were contained to the southeast corner of the building and put out by the fire department within the first half hour.
To ensure efficient damage control, which was described by Vermillion Fire Chief Doug Brunick as "salvage and overhaul," the firefighters decisively focused their attention on the components between the ceiling and the roof, sawing their way in and excavating the area by removing smoldering piece after smoldering piece.
When this process was complete, everything from sections of the venting system, sheetrock, insulation and other charred rubble could be found in a heap of wreckage, waiting to be sifted through for the possible clues to an exact cause, which is still under investigation.
Brunick stated, "They should be able to get back into business very shortly. They (the employees) did the right thing by calling in the emergency quickly." Brunick also said that most of the damage was to the property or permanent structures of the building and not to the store's consumer contents.
Even with rescue crews still on the scene, Meins, who has owned University Cleaners with her husband since March of 2006, began the recovery process by implementing plans for action. She said that she has lined up a boiler company and was prepared to contact another company to look at other damaged areas, including the ceiling and roof in the area that the fire took place.
Meins is confident in the business' ability to rehabilitate effectively and to be back up and running quite soon. She stated, "I think we got everything out good. Hopefully by the end of this week or early next week, we will be open again."
With the holiday season barely behind us and one other Vermillion business, Speedee Mart, still recovering from a similar fire experience, University Cleaners must now adjust to the adverse conditions that they are facing and cling to the hope of a full-strength recovery effort.