Orleans Pallet owner praises firefighters for containing blaze

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 October 2013 at 12:00 am

“I owe these guys a huge amount of gratitude. If this had spread it could have been tragic for the community.” – Shawn Malark, owner of Orleans Pallet

Photos by Tom Rivers – Shawn Malark said he is thankful the massive fire at his warehouse last Thursday didn’t cause more damage to neighboring structures. A demolition crew continues to work on taking down two remaining walls in the warehouse.

ALBION – Shawn Malark watched the fire take off on Thursday afternoon, a blaze that destroyed a 16,000-square-foot warehouse and threatened his business, Orleans Pallet.

Malark worried the fire might be unstoppable, and could consume his neighbors, Empire Coating Inc. and a grain storage facility on West Academy Street. He envisioned major disruptions for residents if there was a big explosion.

But about 150 firefighters contained the blaze to the stone warehouse that was built in 1901.

“The firefighters were huge,” Malark said at Orleans Pallet today, where the business continues to make pallets and ship them to customers. “I owe these guys a huge amount of gratitude. If this had spread it could have been tragic for the community.”

Orleans Pallet continues in a manufacturing site, in an adjacent building to the warehouse. The surviving building suffered water and smoke damage, but Malark and his six employees have worked long hours to keep the operation going.

“There have been no service interruptions,” Malark said. “We’ve been trying to assure our customers that we’re fully operational and we have inventory for every customer.”

Malark and Orleans Pallet have a larger site in Rochester on Lee Road. He lost the main warehouse in Albion due to the fire, but the manufacturing site has about 11,000 square feet. His equipment for breaking down old or damaged pallets and rebuilding them with fresh wood all survived the fire.

The office with his computers also was spared, and so were his forklifts and a lineup of about 10 tractor trailer trucks. Most of them were parked by the loading dock of the fire and they all escaped unscathed.

Orleans Pallet employees Andrew Steffen, left, and Robert Morehouse use a saw to break down some pallets that will be rebuilt with fresh pieces.

Malark is thankful so many critical components of the business survived, especially when they were only a few feet away from the fire. A building across the street had its siding melt because of the heat from the fire.

“Not losing any trailers was a huge blessing,” Malark said.

Some of those trailers were full of 500 to 600 pallets. A smaller sandstone building next to the warehouse also was spared from the fire. That building is used for storage.

Malark opened Orleans Pallet in Albion at the corner of Hamilton Street and Route 31 in 2006. He had worked from three buildings at the site and had plans to put a new roof on the big warehouse.

“We had big plans for the building,” Malark said. “It’s just devastating, but it’s one day at a time. It’s nothing you can conquer in one day.”

Demolition crews continue to dismantle two remaining walls from the warehouse. That building could be down this weekend or next week, Malark said.

Once the site is safe, he will work on cleaning it up. He wants to salvage the sandstone from the building. He said many people have already expressed an interest in buying the stone.

On Wednesday morning, he signed off on donating the Albion Cold Storage Company sign to the village. The stone sign from the building’s original owner split in half but survived the fire and demolition.

Malark thanked Albion Fire Chief Rocky Sidari, Police Chief Rollie Nenni, Dale Brooks from the DPW, Ron Vendetti in code enforcement and Mayor Dean Theodorakos. They have all been cooperative in coping with the fire and its aftermath. (Malark had to put up $35,000 for the demolition.)

“We had to take the building down because it was a threat to the community,” Malark said.

He remains very impressed with the teamwork from the firefighters. More than a dozen fire companies from four counties responded to the fire and Sidari, the Albion chief, led the effort.

“Had Rocky not got everyone going where they needed to be the other buildings would not have been saved,” Malark said. “These were volunteer people risking their lives to not only save this business but to look out for the community. The heart and soul of the community was present at this fire.”