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Overnight blaze forces F7 to relocate; volunteers needed

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star

A week ago F7 Work Activity Center, at 301 S. Kennedy, encountered a fire that immediately suspended operations at the recycling center; now F7 is looking to relocate temporarily.

Volunteers are needed to help in the move.

At a new site F7 clients will be able to continue recycling functions that don't require machinery; the nonprofit's tractor, forklift and a cardboard-processing machine were all damaged in the fire.

Volunteers are needed as soon as possible to aid with cleanup outside F7's current building and also load trucks to take things to the new site.

“(It's) mostly outside work and some brief inside work moving tables, chairs, books and paper products to the other place,” F7's Mary Wisdom said.

Background

The Shawnee Fire Department responded to an overnight call last Tuesday, discovering a blaze that burned down an outbuilding and then made its way to the main warehouse.

SFD Capt. Joe Henry said firefighters were on scene from around 1:30 a.m. until around 4 a.m.

“It burned mostly cardboard and paper,” he said, “and there appeared to be some damage to a tractor and forklift.”

The city provided a backhoe to pull out some of the paper and cardboard, he said.

Henry said a rough estimate of damage could be in the neighborhood of around $10,000.

He said the incident is under investigation.

Mary Wisdom, with F7, said another incident occurred just two weeks ago on the property, when a semi-trailer was burned about 4 a.m.

She said she believes the incidents were intentional.

“This time it's expensive,” she said. “The outbuilding is completely gone.”

She said a tractor, forklift and the machine that processes the recycling center's cardboard all sustained damage.

“Knobs and steering wheels on the equipment are melted; I don't know if they will be salvageable,” she said.

In the community since 1963, F7 Adult Activity Center offers a two-fold purpose while serving the Shawnee area: offering purpose in the lives of its adult clients — those overcoming delayed or limited development — and providing a much-valued service to local businesses and residents. Through the center, employees are able to hold down paying jobs in a safe, monitored and relaxed setting. Much of what the clients do centers around recycling paper goods.

The work center, which (at full force) employs 32 clients, had just reopened up to a few workers the week before.

“We' had three or four in back and no more than four or five in the workshop,” she said. “They were rotating days, so everyone who wanted to work could come.”

F7 was gradually working a couple more employees into the schedule.

The group was acknowledging COVID-19 precautions.

“We were checking temperatures and wearing face masks,” she said. “Now we are shut down again.”

She said she is hoping the move can get F7 clients back to work soon.

“They are devastated by this,” she said.

She said even without the machinery, F7 clients can still at least tear paper.

Huckleberry lands on feet after fire

One onsite resident had a rough time during — and directly after — the fire.

F7's resident kitty, Huckleberry, was inside the building when the fire began.

“He obviously escaped when the building was opened up to fight the fire,” Wisdom said.

Though she couldn't find him at 4 a.m., she was able to track the feline down in the woods nearby a couple hours later.

“He had a horrible cough,” she said.

Wisdom said they were getting him in to see a veterinarian.

Aside from his medical scare, with Huckleberry's home up in flames, new temporary lodging needed to be found right way — and right away, it was.

On Monday Wisdom said Huckleberry is currently doing great in his new environment and that his cough seems to be gone, as well.

To help

The electricity is out, making F7's phone lines out of order, but anyone wishing to help in any way can contact F7 through its Facebook page or by email, at Mary.Wisdom@F7wac.org.