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Investigators probe cause of charity fire

Officials from the Flat Rock Fire Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms returned Sunday to the scene of a fire that destroyed a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop Friday night.

They dug through the rubble investigating the cause of the blaze, fire officials said.

Workers said there was trouble with lights in the building, on Telegraph, and crackling noises in the ceiling before the fire began. Fire officials say it appears to have started in the attic of the building, late Friday.

"We just completed the dig at the site," said Fire Chief William Vack. "The cause is still under investigation at this point. We will be conducting interviews of the persons in the store, both the employees and the volunteers that were there, continuing tomorrow."

Bill Brazier, the executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of Detroit, said the response has been overwhelming.

"We're trying to find out today if we can get a trailer set up at the site to continue to collect donations because that was one of our better sites," Brazier said. "We've gotten calls from churches and synagogues and businesses willing to help."

Among the religious institutions that have contacted St. Vincent de Paul in the wake of the fire are Temple Israel in West Bloomfield and Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson.

For other sites where the agency collects donations, visit www.svddet.org, Brazier said.

The Flat Rock store, which is 15,000 square feet, handles thousands of customers and clients, as well as hundreds of referrals for additional outreach support, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. For now, those displaced by the fire are being directed to the Westland Thrift Store on Wayne Road, between Ford and Warren, according to the archdiocese.

Donations of goods are welcome at any of the nine remaining Society Thrift Stores in southeast Michigan. The locations and hours of operation, along with information for sending donations, can be found online at www.svdpdet.org.To reach the local chapter by telephone, call toll-free, (877) 788-4623.

Leaving for Rome, Detroit's archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida, offered his prayers and support for the leadership of the society.

"Once again, they are facing a major setback to their unselfish and vital ministry to the poor and marginalized of the archdiocese," Maida said. "But our local Vincentians, and the people who support them, always find a way! I know it will be hard, especially this year, but I have great hope.

"And, I pray that all those served by the Thrift Stores, be they downriver, in Detroit, or Port Huron, will be well cared-for this holiday season," the cardinal said.

Written by Gregg Krupa (313) 222-2359 or gkrupa@detnews.com.

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