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4 businesses rebound from Cheswick fire

Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Firefighters battle a structure fire at an industrial complex along Cheswick Avenue in Cheswick on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

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By Maria Guzzo
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Three months after a fire displaced four Cheswick companies in a building at 110 Cheswick Ave., it's business as usual.

James Desmone, Cheswick's zoning and code enforcement officer, said the four businesses are back in operation, with two remaining in Cheswick and two operating in New Kensington. The damaged building will be partly razed and the remaining portion will be renovated for future tenants, Desmone said.

The Sept. 17 fire displaced Filter Service & Installation, whose employees clean kitchen exhaust systems, grease traps, restaurant equipment and laundry ducts; Best Air Systems, which deals in grease filters for restaurants, air filters for HVAC systems, filtration for body shop paint booths and smoke eaters; Professional Mechanical Sales and Service (Pro-Mech), which deals in refrigeration and heating, ventilating and air conditioning; and 1st Fire Protection, which deals in fire suppression systems, fire extinguishers and sprinklers.

Ed Watson, 73, is the building's owner, and owner of Filter Service and Best Air, and has some interest in two of the other firms. He declined comment for this story.

Desmone said the borough is in the process of issuing a demolition permit for 110 Cheswick Ave. The rear of the building, which received the most damage, will be torn down, he said. Demolition could start in mid-January once paperwork is complete.

“They are probably going to try to save the front office part of it,” Desmone said. “They can do the roof first so the interior can be worked on during winter.”

Filter Service and Best Air have relocated within Cheswick to Watercrest Way, Desmone said.

The other firms are now located in the Schreiber Industrial Park in New Kensington along the Allegheny River, Desmone said. Messages left with those firms requesting comment for this story were not returned.

“They're all still up and running,” Desmone said of the four firms. “Nothing's been lost, so to speak, as far as jobs. They bounced back really quickly.”

Paul King, service supervisor for Filter Service, said the company lost a lot in the fire, but things are looking better.

“It's been a long, arduous process in some ways,” King said. “We're happy the company is back up and running.”

King commends Watson for revitalizing the businesses.

“When you run a business, that's part of who you are,” King said. “They key part is he has an awful lot of people counting on him to work here; people who have been with him a long time. But he has a big heart.”

Desmone said he is glad the companies remained in Cheswick and pleased the damaged building may be occupied by a business again.

“When I look at my (zoning) book and the guidelines of what can be put in there, there is a broad range,” Desmone said. “It's a good thing.”

“It's a win-win,” Desmone said. “Eddie is still up in production, and there's a piece of property that can be leased, so Cheswick can have another (business) going in.”

Desmone said he was speaking with insurance adjustors in mid-December regarding the demolition and Watson received praise.

“ ‘What a nice man,' the insurance man (told me),” Desmone said. “That's just the kind of guy Ed is. I'm glad he's staying local.”

Maria Guzzo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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