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Tag Archive | "DTE Energy"

Iconic Rockford eatery destroyed by gas fire


The Corner Bar burned for hours Monday

by Beth Altena and Kellie Lamphere, Rockford Squire

UP IN SMOKE: What started as a dumpster fire progressed into a gas meter explosion and fire fed by gas from the fuel line which consumed The Corner Bar on Monday.

It wouldn’t be the first time all of downtown Rockford went up in flames, but thanks to the persistent efforts of five fire departments, the fire damage was contained to just one building, Rockford’s most iconic structure and business, The Corner Bar. The building was one of few in downtown that survived the fire of 1898, but did not survive the fire of 2017.

Dave Jones, Chief of Rockford Public Safety said his department received a call at about 5 a.m. about a fire in the dumpster behind the building at 31 N Main Street on the west side next to Kimberly’s Boutique. Firefighters put that fire out within five or ten minutes.

Firefighters had just left the building where they had been in the basement evaluating any damage when an explosion occurred that lifted the roof off the building.

“That was the angel on our shoulders,” Jones said. “Four or five firefighters had just walked away from that area.” The heat and pressure from the dumpster fire had damaged the gas meter outside the building and caused the huge explosion. Fed by gas from the fuel line, fire raged for the next four hours as firefighters fought to control the flames.

Firefighters from Rockford were joined by crews from the townships of Algoma, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield. “We are lucky Rockford is in the center of those four townships,” Jones noted. Unlike the fire of 1898, the firefighters were able to limit the fire damage to just the one structure, although neighboring businesses, closed for the duration.

Jones said first responders put millions of gallons on the structure as DTE Energy tried to locate a shutoff for the gas. “It was like a blow torch,” Jones said of the blaze. Firefighters were unable to shut off gas to the building through the meter, which was the epicenter of the fire, and crews from the energy company were unable to locate a remote shutoff that ran to the building. Eventually, after three hours of gas fed fire, a fuel line under Courtland Street was located and DTE was able to crimp the line and shut down the gas.

“For three hours gas fed that fire, it was like a big blow torch up in all that timber. We were fortunate no one was hurt.” Jones also described to reporters how close together all the downtown buildings are, with some connected to each other.  He said the efforts of the departments contained the fire.

Owner of The Corner Bar business, Jeff Wolfe, said the building will be rebuilt and Jones repeated that at City Council that evening. He called the loss of the building devastating and the business the heart of Rockford.

Owner of the building Andy Tidey, who currently resides in Colorado, was flying in Tuesday to see the damage himself and collaborate with Wolfe on a game plan moving forward. He said the building was insured, but he is surprised by the extent of the damage.

“I never imagined it could all go,” he said. “It’s only a half block from the fire department.” He said he has good insurance on the structure and it is his intent to rebuild and reopen The Corner Bar, which reports say dates back to the 1930s. The business is best known for its chili dogs and its chili dog eating contest, with the record of 43 dogs in four hours.

The restaurant featured Hotdog Hall of Fame names engraved with customers who were successful in eating twelve chili dogs in four hours. According to Mark Bivins of Creative Concepts, who engraves the names, there are records of the people on the plaques and how many dogs they ate.

Tidey said it was his expectation that he and Jeff will put their heads together and plan how to rebuild. “There are a lot of questions and a lot of numbers. I hope that is something we are going to work out.” He said part of what made the restaurant the icon it is the ambiance, the names on the wall and the wooded interior. “That’s what we want to recreate.”

Tidey said he received a phone call from his mother in the early hours of Monday morning and she told him the building was on fire. He was afraid to google it and instead sent a text to Jeff, who told him the whole building was in danger. “He said ‘It’s burning up and they can’t stop it, they can’t stop the gas.’” Tidey said it is shocking to think how different things would have turned out if the meter had not blown.

“It would have been just a little fire, it would have been easy to repair.”

Rockford firefighters said the same thing. Ken Phillips Jr. said first responders were thrilled when they put the smaller fire out. “We’re going to look like heroes because we saved the Corner Bar,” he said. Then the explosion happened. “It was just like in the movies, the windows all blew out.”

He said his fellow fire fighters were on the scene for over 20 hours and were grateful for the assistance of the other departments, who worked well with each other and were very professional.

Phillips said the outpouring from the community was overwhelming. Throughout the day over 5,000 people went to the scene and many thanked the firefighters for their efforts. He reported that restaurants brought them food and water throughout the day and night as the structure continued to smoke and smolder.

“That’s Rockford, that’s why people come back or stay in the first place.”

That sentiment was repeated at City Council with members of the public thanking Chief Jones for the hard work of his team and Jamie Davies’ crew, along with the other departments.

The building was purchased from Donald Berg by Corner Bar LLC on March 16, 2001 for $435,000. In 2017 its taxable value was $295,700 for an estimated total value of $591,400, according to the Rockford assessors office.

Phillips said he heard there was speculation about preserving the front façade of the structure and that restoration companies can number the bricks of historic buildings and recreate them.

Tidey said it was too early to even estimate a timeline for rebuilding the structure, “I’m still reeling like everybody else he said the day of the fire.” He did seem confident the business and building would survive even this. “You know it would be great to come back even bigger and more successful.”

On Tuesday evening Jones said that it would be five to seven days before streets surrounding the burned out Corner Bar can safely reopen.

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Beware of people posing as DTE reps


 

From the Better Business Bureau

A Grand Rapids consumer reports to BBB that a person knocked on her door stating he was there on behalf of DTE Energy to discuss an incorrect charge that might be on her DTE Bill. He asked if her most recent DTE bill contained a “Gas Recovery Fee” and, if it did, that the fee was charged in error.   The representative asked to take a copy of the bill and stated he could have the charge removed from future bills and obtain a refund on any “Gas Recovery Fees” already paid to DTE.  BBB advises consumers to beware, and don’t be fooled! The company’s true intent is to switch your natural gas service to Direct Energy.

Direct Energy representatives are currently canvassing in West Michigan; however, they may be identifying themselves as “with DTE” or “on behalf of DTE” with no mention of the true company, Direct Energy.  Direct Energy is based in Houston, Texas, and is licensed with the Michigan Public Service Commission as an alternative gas supplier. Typically, alternative gas suppliers contact consumers and entice them to switch natural gas providers by offering a lower gas rate than the consumer’s current provider for a specified contract term. Often the rate increases dramatically after the contract term expires.

As for the Gas Recovery Fee, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission, this is a legitimate charge; this charge reflects the actual cost incurred by your natural gas company to purchase the gas you use.  The fee will vary depending on the actual amount of gas you use.

Direct Energy has a “C” grade with BBB, with more than 600 complaints on fileThe company uses a variety of business names: CPL Retail Energy, Energetix, Inc., First Choice Power, Gateway Energy, Gateway Power Services, Hess Energy Marketing, New Leaf Energy, NYSEG Solutions, Vectren Source, WTU, WTU Retail Energy. In Michigan, the company uses Direct Energy Services.

The BBB Business Review identifies a pattern of complaints alleging the following:

Door-to-door salesmen do not properly identify themselves as Direct Energy employees; instead they are stating that they work for various other energy companies in an attempt to switch consumers without their knowledge.

Increasingly aggressive sales people; consumers state the door-to-door salesman have repeatedly come to their homes, sometimes up to 3 times daily.  One recent complaint alleges that the sales person actually pushed the consumer’s door open.

Senior citizens may specifically be targeted.

Consumers are being asked for their bills but think they are actually talking with the utility since the salesmen are not identifying themselves as with Direct Energy.

BBB suggests the following when approached by a door-to-door solicitor:

Do not be pressured into providing personal information or sharing your bill

Request proof of employment with company/Employment ID card

If someone shows up at your house unexpectedly and claims to work for a utility company, call the company and confirm that it authorized the person to visit your home.

Check the company’s BBB Business Review.

If you suspect something is amiss, contact BBB.

Be sure to always research any organization you are considering doing business with by visiting www.bbb.org/western-michigan!

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City receives tree-planting grant


Cedar Springs also planted trees in 2009 with a tree-planting grant.

The Department of Natural Resources and DTE Energy foundation announced earlier this week that the City of Cedar Springs will receive of one of 32 grants being issued to Michigan communities for tree-planting projects.

Cedar Springs applied for the grant last winter and requested $1,000 for the replacement of eight trees that they had removed from Main Street. They received a total of $1,400, and will now be able to purchase 12 trees to plant on Main Street between Beech and Maple.

According to DPW Director Roger Belknap, they will plant six Ivory Silk Lilacs and six Spring Snow crabapples sometime in mid-April. “We needed trees that would fit the Main Street footprint, and that would be hearty enough to handle the salt,” explained Belknap.

The grant requires that the city provide a local match, which can be comprised of labor, equipment and funds for tree purchase. According to City manager Christine Burns, they received word that DTE would also be helping them with labor.

Cedar Springs also received a tree-planting grant in 2009.

All 32 grants issued by the DNR and DTE, totaling $62,000, will be used to purchase nearly 1,000 trees of various species and sizes, with planting to begin this spring.

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