Fire-recovery firms say Caughlin lessons help newest efforts
Companies that provide fire cleanup and restoration services say the lessons learned in the Caughlin fire of November 2011 helped them quickly mobilize for victims of the more recent Washoe Drive fire.
In the case of Servpro, mobilization meant bringing in Servpro workers from throughout northern California to create a large pool of disaster-cleanup labor. For furniture rental supplier CORT, it meant tapping its Sacramento warehouse for truckloads of additional furniture and housewares.
There are currently seven Servpro franchises in place helping victims of the Washoe Fire. Twelve Servpro franchises helped victims of the Caughlin Fire, which caused more smoke damage because of the higher density of homes, says Mike Grashuis, owner of ServPro of Reno East/Central Sparks.
The company already has picked up seven clients from the most recent fire, and it worked at about 10 homes damaged by smoke during the Caughlin fire, Grashuis says.
Servpro crews scrub a house from top to bottom, cleaning all the wall, ceiling and floor spaces, as well as wiping down every single dish, plate, cup, knick-knack and bric-a-brac in a home to remove the stench and film left behind by smoke. Because of the high temperatures of the smoke, and the extreme winds during both fires, smoke permeated every square inch of most homes especially the well-ventilated attic spaces, Grashuis says. Crews remove every scrap of insulation in attics, detail-vacuum the space and install new installation throughout.
Delicate items drapes, bedding, wool rugs, silks are sent to a dry cleaners. A crew of four typically spends between three and four 12-hour workdays remediating a residence. Servpro hired on many temporary workers in November, and some employees joined the company full time, which allowed Servpro to quickly respond to new claims, Grashuis says.
“We are miles ahead of where we were with the Caughlin fire, which is a benefit to the insureds. We are able to get there quicker and service their needs quicker. The bottom line is that if we get more people on the ground we can service these people that much faster.”
Scheduling also was a key lesson learned from the earlier tragedy, says Mary Mahoney, administrative assist with Servpro of Reno East/Central Sparks. Another lesson: Clean the ductwork early in the process, because once heating was restarted it spread soot and ash on already-cleaned spaces.
Danett Michelini, account executive with the CORT’s Reno district warehouse at Longley Lane, says team members knew once word of the Washoe Drive fire hit the news that CORT employees had to quickly mobilize. They tapped the Sacramento district warehouse for goods, as well as for additional trucks to meet the spike in demand.
Also, Michelini says, since the demographic of victims for both fires was similar, CORT workers knew they would need to provide furniture and housewares for displaced families.
CORT is still working with claimants of the Washoe Drive fire, but it provided furniture for 20 single-family homes in the November fire, Michelini says.
“The biggest thing is that we understood the size and what to expect as far as how much we needed to do,” she says. “We have kitchen packs, bathroom packs and bedroom packs, and we knew we would have to do double packs in the kitchen for families. We were able to anticipate size better, and we were able to increase our inventory for housewares, appliances, microwaves and TVs.”
The news comes on the heels of a luxury home report from Nevada State Bank that showed in 2019, Northern Nevada’s high-value real estate market accounted for 418 home sales in 2019, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2018. The average luxury home price was over $1.8 million in 2019.