LAKE HALLIE - An early-morning fire Friday at Greener Grass Systems caused an estimated $1 million in damage to an office, retail and residence but the firm's equipment was spared and customer calls are being fielded through its branch office in River Falls.

"We want customers to know we're totally in business and it may take us a few days to reassemble (account information) but we'll continue to provide all our services," said Melissa Crayford, manager of The Greenskeepers, a division of the Chippewa-area firm.

Chippewa Fire District Chief John Neihart told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that his department was summoned at 3:17 a.m. to Greener Grass Systems, 3261 Joles Parkway. Firefighters were still at the scene mid-morning Friday.

There are no injuries. Firefighters from Altoona, Cadott, Township departments and four of the district sites responded. A man and woman were living in an attached apartment when the fire broke out but they escaped safely, Crayford said.

Neihart said the cause of the fire hasn't yet been determined but the owners were in the process of adding a second story to the building.

Crayford said she toured the renovated facility only Thursday. "It was beautiful," she said.

Fire destroyed the company's business office, a newly expanded retail area and all the firm's computer servers and many of the keys to company vehicles and equipment. Work was immediately underway to replace those, Crayford said.

There were off-site backups of data but it will take time to reassemble all the records, Crayford said.

River Falls employees fielded many, many phone calls Friday. Many customers are scheduling fall "blow-outs" of irrigation systems, seeding jobs and leaf-cleanup.

At this point, there are no plans for River Falls crews to work in the Eau Claire area, she said. About 50 employees work from the Lake Hallie office, seasonally, Crayford said. Greenkeepers in River Falls employs about 20 people.

Links to TV footage from the fire scene appear on the Greener Grass Systems' web site. View it at