Grease first sets east side Iowa City dental lab ablaze

BY TOM CLOS | JANUARY 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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A building on Iowa City’s East Side went up in flames within minutes due to a kitchen mishap, destroying one of the city’s health institutions in the process.

The Dental Lab, 1515 Jackson Ave., was closed when at approximately 7:30 p.m. a woman that lived in the back of the building reportedly fell asleep while cooking French fries. The flames eventually engulfed most of the residential-style building, but the woman was able to make it out unscathed. No one was reportedly injured.

As of about 11:30 p.m., 34 emergency responders were still working to put out the fire.

Dental Lab Vice President Brian Hartley, who wasn’t at the house at the time, said everything had been shut off per standard protocol. He felt it was the result of simply one big kitchen-related accident.

“I turned off all the Bunsen burners and machines,” he said. “It’s just silly because it was French fries from the back apartment.”

The Dental Lab is a manufacturer of dental products, primarily dentures.  

“It’s a family business that operated for over 50 years, and I have a lot of memories of that building,” Hartley said. “This is also our second location; the first one actually burnt down at a downtown location years ago.”

The amount of damage is as yet unknown, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Hartley knew, however, that he would have a lot on his plate from a financial standpoint for at least the near future.

“It’s hard to say with all of the equipment how much it will all cost,” he said. “We’ll be talking with the insurance people with the next couple of days to try and figure it out.”

Hartley said he knows his customers aren’t going to wait around forever for his company to figure things out. He just hoped they would allot them enough time to regroup.

“We have like 60 dentists we do work for,” Hartley said. “We just hope all of our clients will be patient with us.”

Now, for the third time, the Dental Lab will be forced to find another new home.

“We make dentures here,” Hartley said. “But we aren’t going to make them here anymore.”

— DITV reporter Jovana Simic contributed to this story

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