The third largest fire in the city’s history tore through an apartment community under construction. It took more than 150 firefighters to put out this four-alarm fire. Embers were carried tremendous distances on the high winds, and the huge fire produced incredible temperatures which caused damage to the leasing office/club house, as well as a residences throughout the property. The heat was so intense that it cracked the window panes and melted the interior blinds on the second story units facing the street, and also melted parts of cars in the front parking lot. The main road was shut down for a mile in both directions. Firefighters evacuated the neighboring community, forcing entry into 77 apartment homes to ensure there were no occupants inside, leaving all these homes unsecured. The total cost of the emergency service and reconstruction was $634,310.10
The initial challenge was to replace nearly every entry door to provide security before the residents could be allowed back on the property. This was accomplished by Sunday afternoon, following our arrival to the scene on Saturday morning. Two homes were flooded incidental to firefighting operations, and had to be dried out. Once occupancy was returned, it was discovered that the embers had damaged almost a dozen electrical runs, preventing air conditioning units from being turned back on. Once occupancy was returned, it was discovered that the embers had damaged almost a dozen electrical runs, preventing air conditioning units from being turned back on. Since temperatures where in the 90’s, this required a secondary emergency response to run new conduit and wiring so the units could be made operational as quickly as possible.
The decorative water ponds, swimming pool and hot tub adjacent to the leasing office/clubhouse had to be pumped out. The leasing office/clubhouse area was boarded up and fenced off.
The community manager, who was new to the business, had never experienced even a single unit fire previously. The owner of the property had only been out to the location one time before, but nevertheless wanted to have some remodeling done. Although he wanted to be involved in the changes and selections, he wasn’t sure when he would be able to come out to the property again. In the end, he never did make it into town, so all the remodel work and décor was approved remotely.
When all was said and done, in addition to the common areas, we worked in 77 units. Access coordination was required for each and every one of them, which proved to be a logistical challenge.
The project was broken up into two phases. The emergency services were performed immediately in order to provide security to the apartments and return the residents’ homes to livable conditions, as well as secure the leasing office/clubhouse. This process lasted for two days.
With the immediate needs addressed, we focused on restoring the property to its pre-loss condition. In addition, we made some owner-requested changes, which included wall layout and cabinet upgrades. Utilizing digital photography, email and the internet, we were able to show the out-of-state owner the selections, changes and final product for a property that he was unable to visit in person. The Community Manager, while new to the industry, was “rock solid” and grew tremendously through the process. Her professionalism gained her the confidence and respect of the entire Property Management company, who subsequently asked her to take charge of creating a plan to help the company be prepared should they experience another loss in the future.
We provided temporary security through boarding up, fencing and door replacements, emergency clean up, mitigation/structural drying, content removal and demolition to return the community to a livable condition immediately. We then completed the fire damaged structural repairs while incorporating owner-requested remodeling into the project, utilizing state of the art technology to communicate with an absentee owner.