The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Fatal fire repeats history


February 22, 2018

Daily Globe file photo

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at 102 E. Aurora St. in 2006. The building caught fire again Wednesday morning and appears to be a total loss.


Ironwood - The early Wednesday morning fire at 102 E. Aurora St. in downtown Ironwood that resulted in one death and other injuries wasn't the first fatal fire in the building.

On Dec. 15, 2006, the body of Greg Pecotte, 25, was found after a third-floor apartment in the building near the corner of Lowell and Aurora streets burned.

The Daily Globe reported Pecotte's body was found by firefighters after the blaze was extinguished. At that time, the downstairs business on the first floor was a clock and watch establishment.

Pecotte, a 1999 Hurley High School graduate who was blind and had diabetes, died of smoke inhalation in the accidental fire, then Ironwood Public Safety Department Director Robert Erspamer said.

In that blaze, volunteer firefighters Mike Wiemeri and Jason Holmes were treated at the scene by Beacon Ambulance and apartment residents Theresa Vernetti, 63, and Joe Cavosie, 65, were treated and released from Grand View Hospital.

Short response

The IPSD responded to Wednesday's 3:49 a.m. fire with full force from the police-fire station just a block and a half away.

A second adjacent building at 104 W. Aurora St. was also destroyed. Debris from the upper floor of that building ended up on the roof of the Contrast Coffee building next door. City records show the two destroyed buildings date back to the 1920s.

The entire main street block was closed Wednesday during the firefighting efforts that turned streets to ice during near zero temperatures. Business U.S. 2 was re-routed through downtown.

City Manager Scott Erickson and numerous onlookers watched the buildings burn from near the Ironwood Theatre, across the street, around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Erickson said the three-story Chelsi's Corner building was owned by Chuck Hagstrom. Hagstrom also owned the second burned building next door.

Chelsi's Corner was a clothing store that offered everything from plaid shirts for Ironwood's autumn downtown Plaidurday celebration to home goods and jewelry.

Chelsi's Corner drew rave reviews on its Facebook site.

"What a great store in town. You can find a little something for every corner of your life," Dorena Herrara-Perez posted on the site.

The building previously housed an Italian restaurant and hardware store, among other business ventures.

School closed

The smoke from the fire was visible Wednesday morning from Kimball.

The fire forced the closure of Luther L. Wright K-12 School on Ayer Street, blocks away, around 9:30 a.m. because of the heavy smoke that was blowing southeast, children were sent home and the air ventilation system in the building was shut off when the smoke became excessive.

Around 10 a.m., a staff member at the school said some staff members remained, but were preparing to leave the building.

Many other homes in the city were affected by the smoke.

There was a brief power glitch downtown around 9 a.m., following an earlier outage.

Water turns brown

City officials issued a warning about discolored water downtown during the firefighting efforts and it turned brown citywide, they later said.

Officials said at noon the brown water would likely continue until the fire was extinguished and the hydrant could be turned off.

City utility customers were advised to conserve water.

While classes at Ironwood resumed today, an automated message to parents Wednesday encouraged students to bring bottled water for the remainder of the week. The message said washing hands in the water was ok, but could be followed up with the use of hand sanitizer.


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