Councilman’s house heavily damaged in fire

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Boards cover the windows on City Councilman Robert Abraham’s house after a fire caused extensive interior damage Sept. 26. Building authorities hadn’t determined if the house was salvageable as of press time.

Times-Herald Newspaper

DEARBORN — City Councilman Robert Abraham and his family are trying to regain some semblance of normalcy after a fire ravaged their west end house Sept. 26.

Investigators have indicated the fire started due to an electrical failure in a cavity between a finished basement ceiling and kitchen floor, Abraham said. By the time fire crews were dispatched about 9 p.m., the fire had progressed enough to basically drop the kitchen into the basement.

Damage was present throughout most of the house, but the exterior of the brick ranch remained unscathed.

No one was home at the time of the incident, but the family’s Labrador retriever, Dublin, was killed in the fire.

The night of the fire began like so many other election-season Saturdays, said Abraham, who is up for re-election Nov. 3. After dropping off their daughter at a friend’s house, he and his wife, Mary, were making appearances at neighborhood block parties to try to get out the vote.

At their last stop of the evening, the couple ran into Councilman Mark Shooshanian, who invited them to join him at the Elks Lodge for a drink, a social occasion that would turn out to be short-lived.

“We were there about 15 or 20 minutes and my neighbor called and said ‘Bob, you better come home. I just called 911. Your house is on fire,” said Abraham.

The fire’s timing is especially bad for Abraham, who had been campaigning to better his showing over August primary results in which he finished outside the top seven vote-getters. For now, however, more pressing matters will push politicking into the background.

“This is just a time when I’m going to have to focus on my house and my family and politics will take care of itself,” Abraham said.

Abraham said he spent most of last week going through the house trying to salvage personal belongings and dealing with insurance adjusters. So far, the salvage efforts have been mostly limited to nonporous items like pictures and artwork because smoke or fire damage ruined most everything else.

Structural engineers also have begun assessing the house to see if it is worth rehabilitating. A decision is expected within the next week, Abraham said.

In the meantime, he and family have been staying at his father’s house while they seek out temporary living arrangements. Abraham said he wants to find something near Bryant Middle School, where his daughter attends, to keep disruptions in her life to a minimum.

The community response has been overwhelming, he said, with “literally hundreds of people,” offering anything from a place to stay to financial assistance. The family asks that anyone who wants to help can make a donation to the Dearborn Animal Shelter in Dublin’s memory.