Putting it Back Together: A Case Study
It started as an ordinary Monday night in September 2012.
May 14, 2013
It was an ordinary Monday night in September 2012. Jim and Liesel Woodman were reading the newspaper on the lower level of their Lakewood, CO home. The smell of smoke alerted the couple and as they dashed to reach the top of the stairs, they found their kitchen engulfed in flames. Attempts to escape out the front door faltered, as they found themselves blocked by a double-keyed dead bolt. During this time, Matt Dillon, the Woodman’s 18-year-old neighbor, was on his way home and saw the flames. Dillon was about to break a window when the couple found the key and managed to escape the flames. Dillon helped the couple to the lawn as the fire department arrived.
Jim Black Construction received the call around 12:30 a.m. from the West Metro Fire District Dispatch Center detailing a very badly burned single-family home in need of emergency services. All the company’s project managers and field technicians are on a rotational schedule, and on this particular week, Kyle Ballew was the project manager sent to the home. He arrived to the scene while the fire department was still investigating the cause of the fire and was informed that Jim and Liesel Woodman had been transported to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation.
Once the fire department determined that venting gas from a barbeque propane tank likely caused an explosion and the ensuing fire, they released the property to Jim Black Construction to begin the emergency services that included boarding up all windows and doors, winterizing the pipes to prevent freezing and turning off all electric and gas utilities. With the Colorado winter quickly approaching, Ballew had the sprinkler system blown out. The next process in a major fire is retrieving valuable personal items and to begin creating a non-salvageable contents list for the insurance company.
This process, however, had to be delayed for exactly four weeks, as Jim and Liesel Woodman battled their inhalation injuries, first in the ICU and then through acute rehabilitation. Following their discharge, company owner Jim Black spoke with the couple about their family, interests, and his business, explaining the restoration process and forging an immediate relationship.
Because the house was deemed a complete loss, Ballew took the family through the home to let them retrieve their valuables, and helped them go through office files to make copies of important documents. The non-salvageable list was submitted to the insurance company only after the family was confident they had everything. At that point, the Woodman’s and Jim Black Construction were able to begin putting things back together.
Unfortunately, three weeks after returning home Jim Woodman returned to the hospital and soon passed away from complications of the injuries sustained during the fire. As the family mourned, Ballew worked with engineers in evaluating the structural damage. During demolition, the crew removed the badly charred framing. Next, the home was washed and sealed to eliminate the smoke odor, even in the most difficult places where the fire pressurized – like between top plates in the walls or headers in the windows. The project lasted for seven months and crews encountered a bevy of challenges throughout the restoration job, the most daunting having been getting the structure completely smoke free.
In very difficult, tragic situations, Jim Black Construction could not be more proud to be a part of rebuilding, be it a home or business, or rebuilding of lives. Seeing a displaced family ecstatic in their beautifully finished home, is the most rewarding experience anyone in this industry could experience and this was definitely not an exception. The crew continues to have a relationship with the Woodman family to this day, a tribute to the company’s long history of quality work, genuine compassion and, in turn, referral-based business.