Homecoming Dress Comes Clean Following House Fire

Shadyside High School freshman Maggie Kozlowski didn’t even think about the fact her dress for tonight’s homecoming dance hung in its bag in her bedroom when her family’s home caught fire Tuesday.

She said she was in too much shock after the fire, and worried about her father, Stan, who had escaped the flames and smoke through a window.

“(The dress) was not even going through my mind,” Kozlowski said. “I just wanted to make sure my dad was OK.”

The fire destroyed the living room of the home, but also sent soot and smoke into her bedroom, according to Kozlowski.

Firefighters learned of the dress and notified the 1-800-BoardUp victim assistance organization, which brought the matter to the attention of Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration in Wheeling. Panhandle took the dress, the accessories Kozlowski planned to wear with it and her band uniform shirt for cleaning and smoke removal before the weekend.

On Friday, representatives of BoardUp and Panhandle presented Kozlowski with her freshly cleaned pink and black dress. While the bag had protected them from soot, the smell of smoke had to be removed from the garment, explained Josh Contraguerro with Panhandle.

But Kozlowski’s black pumps, pink purse, sparkly jewelry and pink flip flops all had been covered with soot, as was her orange band shirt. These also were returned clean to her Friday.

In addition, Contraguerro handed Kozlowski a gift card to cover the cost of her pre-dance dinner tonight.

A soft-spoken Kozlowski smiled widely when she saw her things, but emotion had her struggling to find words.

“Everyone has items special to them that are damaged the day of a fire,” Contraguerro said. “We like to help them get back to normalcy, and back to life.”