On the morning of Wednesday, January 30, the night watchman at Cleveland’s historic West Side Market called 911 and reported a fire from inside the building.

Cleveland firefighters arrived after 2 a.m. and put out the electrical fire that started in one of the 164 stalls that make up the century-old food market, which is owned and operated by the City of Cleveland. The fire consumed two of the vendor’s booths and sent billowing soot throughout the massive structure.

National headlines and local television news covered the story of the market’s indefinite closure and the total loss of the vendor’s food and paper products, highlighting the impact the closure would have on local restaurants, residents and the economy. While the prediction of food loss turned out to be accurate, the projected downtime was not.

“As soon as we heard about the West Side Market fire, we looked at the extent of damage from the media and I was compelled to go see it for myself,” said Kevin Mann of RestorX MD. “The City of Cleveland agreed to allow us to present a bid on Thursday morning. The smoke damage was extensive. The herringbone brick ceiling towering 50 feet overhead was covered with old dust and greasy soot. We were certain our cleanup capability would stand up to the national fire restoration companies.”

The fire and smoke damage to the market was a serious concern for all of Northeast Ohio. The year 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the market’s opening and hundreds of thousands of shoppers had made pilgrimages to, or continued their long-time support of, this classic food market during the many special events held throughout the year. However, one month after the last celebratory event, the existence of the market was in question.

RestorX MD put in their bid with a 10-day completion guarantee and the City of Cleveland awarded the company the contract. That was on the Friday following the fire. That Saturday morning, RestorX MD started working around the clock with 130 workers to restore the facility.

Here are the details of the cleanup process, told in Mann’s words:

“The cleaning was done in two stages. First we had to dry clean the dusty soot from all the surfaces and structure. If someone else had gotten the contract, they might have started using liquids on the things that would have set the soot. When heavy soot is on stainless steel and it gets wet, it immediately starts a pitting action which would have damaged all the stainless in the building. So our people used fine-particle-filter (HEPA) vacuums to collect the dry debris on the entire structure, including a build-up of 1-inch dust that sat on top of the overhead lights that canopy each stand.

The second stage was the power wash that started with a two-minute soak in a cleaning solution we created. That was followed up with our 3,000 pounds-per-square-inch pressure washing with 350° water using six 65-foot hydraulic-lift platforms.”

While the market had been built with drains, gutters and a slanted floor 100 years ago so that blood could be hosed out, the huge amount of water from the cleaning process was more than the system could or should handle. However, RestorX MD also has a carpet cleaning division, featuring three Vortex 8,000 trucks that they used to suck up thousands of gallons of dirty, sooty water into tanker trucks for haul away.

Mann noted the extreme detail his crew went to during their 12-hour shifts. 

“All of the Market’s glass and steel cases had to be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled,” he says. “You couldn’t have any soot hiding in the cracks or it would smell and eventually pit the stainless steel strips that hold the glass facings of the counters. This was a very detailed and tedious process. But it’s something we’ve done before and will most likely do again and again.”

An unexpected benefit to the cleanup process was that 100 years of accumulated grime was washed away with soot, revealing details in the ceramic ceiling and wall tiles that had been unnoticed and unappreciated for many years.

On Monday, February 18, tenants and vendors were able to restock product for the market re-opening.

In addition to getting the West Side Market up and running for the 100 owners of the 164 stalls and their nearly 200 employees, the quick turnaround benefited the companies and employees who supply the vendors, as well as the thousands of Clevelanders who depend on the market for their daily and weekly food shopping. The West Side Market features produce, fresh meat, specialty foods, bakery, domestic and exotic cheeses and ethnic foods not found anywhere else in the city.

Today, Cleveland’s West Side Market looks as good as it did in 1912, thanks to RestorX MD.  

RestorX MD is a disaster recovery company, located at 9000 Tyler Boulevard in Mentor, OH. The company is a member of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association and the recipients of many years of “Best of the Best” awards, which are presented annually in Northeast Ohio. Reach them by calling 440-639-0622 or at www.restorxmd.com