Center for disabled adults damaged by fire

May 26, 2009 10:07:24 AM PDT
Local, state and federal agencies are investigating a fire that badly damaged a Germantown center for adults with disabilities.The blaze broke out a little before 3:00 a.m. Tuesday morning in the dumpster behind the JEVS Center at 5521 Wayne Avenue.

The fire leapt from the dumpster to a building window, then worked its way up the side of the building and into a dropped ceiling, causing significant damage.

Flames buried themselves deep within the building, making it very tough for firefighters to reach them and put them out.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Garrity says the fire marshal is taking a very careful look at the dumpster where the blaze started.

Garrity told Action News that, "the fire marshal is on location. He's conducting his investigation. And I think a prudent individual might give it a second look."

JEVS spokesperson Kristen Rantanen says she knows of no threats made against the agency.

"This is a really special location," Rantanen said. "We have 26 long-term employees here who are deeply committed to the clients that they serve, and its really considered a showcase program for us. So, we really can't imagine how something like this could have been intentional."

The building houses a day program for developmentally disabled adults.

"For some of them it's really like a senior center. It's a place to go and socialize and have a vibrant life in the community," said JEVS CEO Jay Spector.

No one was injured in the fire.

The 72 clients were told to stay home today as officials scrambled to find an alternate site.

The ATF and State Police are also on the scene investigating.

JEVS Human Services was formed in the 1940's to help Jewish refugees. It has since grown to an $80 million, full service agency with a wide list of clients.

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