Pechin Shopping Village Destroyed by Fire                   June 10, 2006














Buildings and equipment located at the old Pechin Shopping Village in Dunbar Township are
consumed in a large fire that destroyed the complex Friday afternoon. Dave
Rafferty/Herald-Standard  

DUNBAR - A Fayette County landmark known for its 19-cent hamburgers and hodge-podge
of stores was destroyed by fire Friday that kept firefighters on the scene well into the night. The
original location of Pechin Shopping Village, now empty after its merchandise and employees
were moved last year to the Laurel Mall store, was reduced to ruble after fire swept through the
complex at about 3 p.m. Seventeen fire companies from throughout the county were on the
scene to maintain the blaze that sent black clouds of smoke into the air that could be spotted
miles away."We were on our way from Uniontown back to Connellsville and saw the black
smoke," said Erin Whipkey as she stood on a nearby hillside. "With all that smoke, we thought
it had to be Pechins."Advertisement
The fire moved swiftly from the former beer distributor to the pharmacy onto the delicatessen
and to the grocery store.

The blaze also destroyed several trailer trucks sitting nearby.As the wind shifted, the acrid
smoke changed direction, often enveloping the New Haven Hose Volunteer Fire Co. ladder
truck that was spraying water onto the buildings.Fayette EMS personnel on the scene reported
no injuries as well as not having to treat anyone.The sounds of cracking glass and collapsing
walls could be heard by those standing by a roadside railing, watching the fire consume the
concrete and wooden structure.Owner Donald D'Amico could not be reached for comment
Friday.Nearby resident Jamie Leonard said she made her way to the railing after hearing the
wailing sirens of the fire trucks and noticing the gray skies."At first I thought the fire was
somewhere else," she said. "It sounded as if they were going up the hill."I looked outside and
the sky was so dark, I thought it was going to rain."Instead, she realized that fire had erupted at
the now-closed store."I was 3 years old when I first came here with my grandfather to shop,"
said Leonard. "I'm so glad there wasn't a lot of people here."Chris Wingrove turned her back
and covered her mouth and nose with her blue shirt as the wind blew small bits of debris,
smoke and water in her direction.She found a place at the roadside railing after checking with
her husband, Jerry, who was one of the first to contact the county 911.Wingrove said that the
30-year veteran Pechin employee had been monitoring those picking up purchased items from
recent auction held by the owners."He said that he saw a spark (from a nearby transformer)
and then flames," she said.As some onlookers left the railing, others took their place. Some
took the time to capture the sight with camera phones and cameras.Judy Tobah, who had
recently moved to the area, recalled shopping at Pechin as a youngster."I remember driving my
mom here after I got my driver's license," she said as she moved to a new vantage point to take
more photographs.Tobah said she remembered the articles that were published in the Wall
Street Journal and the National Enquirer about the quaint shopping village that drew customers
from Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia on a regular basis."Everybody knew about Pechins,"
she said. "That's how I explained to people how to get to my house."I tell them to come to
Pechins and after they went past, there was my place.

"Many onlookers were concerned about the wooded area to the rear of the stores and propane
tanks that were sitting near the buildings."They seem to be keeping (the tanks) wet," said an
unidentified woman.A firefighter at one entrance kept onlookers to the far side of the roadway,
explaining that there was a potential danger with the location of the fuel tanks so close to the
burning structure.The Fayette County state police fire marshal could not be reached for
comment as to the cause or origin of the fire.Those fire companies responding to the scene
included: Connellsville Township, Connellsville City, New Haven Hose, DL&V, Dawson,
Dunbar, Everson, Farmington, Hopwood, Morrell, Monarch, Ohiopyle, Perry Township,
Smock, West Leisenring, North Union Township, Bullskin Township and South Union
Township.Additional manpower was also provided by firefighters from Somerset County.


Story:  The Herald Standard/Yauger