Service Teams Complete Fire Restoration of Historic El Paso Store: A Case Study
Along with fire and smoke damage, thick soot covered most surfaces in the building and interior spaces, in addition to merchandise
During the early morning hours of Sunday, June 24, 2012, James Holland, Vice President of Operations at Holland’s Department Store in El Paso, TX – a two-story historic building that was originally built in 1901 - was notified by the local fire department that smoke was pouring from the building and a fire had ignited at the property. Flames emanating from Bella Boutique, the adjacent tenant space, engulfed the entire building with smoke and soot. The fire department was immediately on-site. Holland called Randy Mitchell, owner of Paul Davis Emergency Services, whom he knew from working at a family member’s residential water loss emergency earlier this year.
When Mitchell completed the initial emergency services board-up at the department store, he called J. Murphy, Paul Davis National’s Chief Operating Office to survey the damage. Murphy was on the scene the next day and proposed next steps to restore the building with Holland and the insurance adjusters.
The insurance companies required the building to remain closed for a month before further work could commence. However, when Paul Davis was formally approved to start the job, teams of company and local contractors worked around-the-clock to re-open Holland’s Department Store in just four days, as restoration work took place after hours. Bella Boutique, on the other hand, remained closed for business until restoration and reconstruction was completed.
Along with fire and smoke damage, thick soot covered most surfaces in the building and interior spaces, in addition to merchandise. Water and fire retardant foam was left throughout the structure. Two days later, the advance team from Paul Davis National surveyed the site to assess the loss and provide manpower needs. The restoration team immediately began to staff the project with technicians who were certified and trained from The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), along with contents experts and local subcontractors.
Crews began working 24/7 to secure the area and provided stabilization, demolition, structural clean-up, cleaning, restoration and emergency mitigation services, as well as repairs. Crews worked on the project from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. while moving merchandise and displays around the store to minimize displacement for operating hours. Also, work included large scale cleaning of fire, soot and smoke staining on interior spaces including displays, clothing, home goods and accessories, among others.
The building’s original brick and metal firewalls prevented the fire from traveling from Bella Boutique into Holland’s. However, repairs were necessary and made to the roof and structural support materials, plus fire protection and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), and security systems were replaced. Also, electrical equipment was repaired and replaced and the interior of the building was re-painted.
According to Holland, the occurrence caused the store to close for business for first the time since it opened as a department store in 1960.
“We had never been closed to our customers during normal business hours,” Holland said. “We were concerned because our customers were very anxious to resume their shopping activities and we had to tell them that it would be at least a few days before the store would open again. We were so pleased that the store was able to open so quickly with Paul Davis’ help.”
Holland added that he and his family viewed Paul Davis’ work as a miracle with the quick response, professional and timely work ethics, and effectiveness. “The restoration company far exceeded our expectations,” he said.
According to Howland “Howdy” Russell, Paul Davis National’s co-owner, the company served as the general contractor on the job along with Mitchell.
“This was a multi-faceted loss due to the sensitive nature of the historic structure and the two businesses operating in approximately 40,000-square-feet of space,” he said. “We were able to assure the retailers that the structure would be clean and safe for staff and customers. The response had to be carefully planned by a team that was experienced in large losses.”
Paul Davis managed and completed the work on time, while overseeing the entire emergency services project to ensure the correct tactics and techniques were planned in advance and implemented with a proposed schedule - all with cost containment and technical accuracy.
Holland’s Department Store and Bella Boutique in downtown El Paso, TX are now open and fully restored. The recently completed emergency services and disaster response work included structural board-up, demolition, fire, soot and smoke damage clean-up, building stabilization, deodorizing and reconstruction.