This will be my first blog post here that is not photography related. While it will include photographs that I shot, I am really feeling the need to vent and warn people about what happened after our office building caught fire.
On May 12, 2013 the office building that houses our office (along with 19 others) and is owned by my father caught fire. We do not know the cause yet, though there are theories. We do know that the fire started in an upstairs corner unit, which is a total loss.
The offices next to and below the corner unit also suffered great losses by either fire damage, water damage or both. Every office suite in the building suffered smoke damage and each were either RED TAGGED (unsafe) or YELLOW TAGGED (restricted entry).
Every door of every suite was busted in by the firefighters on scene to be sure there were no people in any of the offices.
We’ve been told that the fire was called in by a homeless person by using the payphone at the next door liquor store. If the homeless person had not called it in when he/she did, the damage would have been MUCH WORSE. We’ve been told that a fire doubles in intensity and damage every 10 minutes. So with this blog, I say THANK YOU to this homeless person, I still do not welcome you in our parking lot, drinking beer, relieving yourself and making a huge mess, but thank you nonetheless.
I’m getting off on a tangent. The reason I want to post this blog is to vent about what happens AS SOON AS THE FIRE CALL GOES OUT OVER THE RADIO. Now, in all fairness, I was not here on the day of the fire, but our office manager was. There are companies that monitor the firefighter dispatch radio and head to a fire as soon as a fire company is assigned. Talk about ambulance chasers, these people are FIRE ENGINE CHASERS. While the firefighters were still on scene, while the building was still smoking, in this time of stress, loss and confusion, these people prey on the fact that you have immediately been thrown into an overwhelming situation and have no idea what to do next. Of course, all of the slick, used car salesmen-type, people have their fancy business cards in hand, they all say “I’m on your side” and “we’re here to help you.” They tell you that their company is the best, the most reputable, the most well respected … They all claim to “work with the firefighters” or the city. When I arrived on Monday morning, the vultures were still circling. A steady stream of these slimy bastards marched into our office pitching their companies. They try to convince us that they can repair water damage more efficiently than the other company who just left. That they can get our power turned back on the quickest, they can test for asbestos and abate if needed. They are the best choice to repair the building. They wasted our entire day with their spiels and sales pitches. I got so fed up at one point that when one of them asked me how I was doing and what I was thinking, I said “I don’t know who’s bullshit to believe.” By the end of the day Monday, we had stacks of business cards, brochures and bullshit piled high on our desks. This continued for the entire week.
One of the fire-engine-chasing companies on scene on Sunday did actually help. They boarded up the busted out windows in the building. They sealed off exterior stairwells, they re-secured the doors that had been busted in by the firefighters and placed padlocks on each door. As slimy of a vibe as I got from them on Monday, they did help on Sunday … But by Tuesday, I fired them. I could not handle them any longer. Every person from that company that I had contact with was so FAKE-NICE, so slick, so slimy, such used-fucking-car-salesmen, that I had to stop them. They’ve since been re-hired. I had my say, was told they were the best by the people we’ve chosen to handle our building and I said I would not stand in the way if they were the best choice. So far, so good.
We’ve been without electricity since the fire. Our office is working off of a generator. We’ve had the city inspector out to our building several times requesting that they allow us to turn the power back on so we can get the clean up started, which needs to happen before we can get the re-building started. So far, they’ve said NO every time, oh, and, last time they were here, just for fun, they decided to RED TAG our generator because we didn’t have a permit for it … So they won’t let us turn our power back on, but they’re happy to RED TAG the generator and make us go downtown and spend more money on a useless permit for the generator that is our office’s life’s blood. Thanks for the support of a local business.
I feel like every turn has been a catch-22. We cannot do anything until we get the electricity back on. We cannot get the electricity back on until the city inspector approves our request(s). Trace amounts of asbestos were found in the “popcorn ceiling” which was disturbed during the fire fight. Clean up cannot start until the asbestos is cleaned, the asbestos can’t be cleaned until the power is back on, the power will not be turned on until the city inspector decides to allow us to do so … Are you getting the picture? Every time we attempt to take a step forward, we are blocked by something the needs to happen BEFORE we can take that step. Oh, and , we are only allowed to have the generator for 30 days according the city law … tick fucking tock.
This is the upstairs, interior, common area where the popcorn ceiling was “disturbed” and where some of the asbestos abatement is happening.
More from the corner office, where the fire started.
Here’s a shot of the corner unit from the parking lot …
Here are our “welcoming” front doors … The Red and Yellow tags are out of frame on the right.
And some of the plastic being used to seal off the building while the asbestos abatement team is working …
I am lucky in that this is the first time I have ever had to deal with a fire. I just can’t stress enough how crazy the scene here was AFTER THE FIRE. Not only are we freaking out about EVERYTHING from, alerting the tenants, trying to retain the tenants, trying to get the power on for us and the tenants, answering the same questions from the different tenants 20 times each, tenants asking for their rent to be returned, asking for their deposits to be returned, asking for updates … which is all legit. 100% understood. But, in doing our best to appease everyone, we are trying to deal with rebuilding our building, cleaning the water damage, cleaning the smoke damage, cleaning the asbestos, trying to get the city to turn our power back on, trying to please the city with a generator permit … Just trying to function in a customer service related office without power, without phones, without air conditioning … Each day of the week following the fire the temperature was in the 90’s … So here we are, sitting in a dark, hot, quiet office trying to sort out the hand that has just been dealt us, and the PARADE OF VULTURES starts marching into our office, one at a time. It’s like they were all waiting in the parking lot, as one left, they passed the baton to the next one … They all had the same pitch, the same used-car vibe … I hope this never happens to you.
June 3, 2013 update: We are still using the generator for power, the city still has not approved our request for power in the building. The asbestos abatement team is here and working. They’ve been here since May 31. They have sealed off the building with plastic covers. I have no idea how they are doing what they do as the plastic is opaque, I can’t see anything … They tapped into our generator in order to get started. No more time to wait for the city. Once the asbestos is gone the next step can be taken (getting rid of the smoke damage in the yellow tagged offices and allowing the tenants to come back in and re-open their offices).
I feel like our office is basically back to normal. The fact that our power is coming in via generator doesn’t affect me. I have power, I don’t care where it’s coming from. Our phones are up, our computers are up (after spending some time in the repair shop replacing the power sources) … we are able to function and help our clients.