The day was January 3, 2012 when a fire broke out in downtown North Bay, Ontario, Canada. It originated at Lefebvre’s, a sporting goods store, and soon spread nearby to “The Abbey,” a building that was built in 1926. Sixteen hours later after firefighters extinguished the blaze, a smoke, soot and water-damaged Abbey emerged. 

The next day, Jeff MacMillan, the Emergency Project Lead Manager for Paul Davis Systems of North Bay, was called in by Adjusters SSA to immediately set up emergency water extraction procedures. Due to the extensive water needed by the fire department in order to battle the blaze, water had traveled between The Abbey and Lefebvre’s and found its resting place in the basement. Upon inspection, Jeff discovered the basement was flooded with water up to three feet high, some of it turning into ice as the heating system had been damaged and the January weather played its part. The building was completely covered in smoke, both inside and out, and the main storefront floor was also saturated and covered in soot and smoke.

The elements made the initial inspection and emergency procedures very difficult to work in. The amount of water in the basement mixed with the temperature from the portable construction heaters made for a nasty humid environment with odors escaping every surface. Dehumidification and odor control was set up on the main storefront floor and the store merchandise and contents were removed and catalogued immediately. At this time in the job, Matt Brooks, reconstruction project lead manager, was called in to finish the restoration.

The Abbey is a quaint holiday card store specializing in ornaments and decorations. The amount of merchandise that had to be removed was extensive. Being a large scale loss, the age of the building, the historic steel architecture and the custom plaster moulds original to the building, this was unlike any other job the team had restored before. Matt’s plan of attack was to establish the initial damages and estimate the cost of repairs. After mitigating the damage due to smoke, soot and water, the building was prepped for repairs. The mitigation of the attic space was a challenge to say the least. Being a steel frame and having wire mesh spanning the entire attic, it was extremely difficult to maneuver once inside. Clean-up and sealing of the attic was near unworkable, but the crew dove right in and got the job done. Once that was complete both an architect and a mechanical engineer were called in to handle the building code issues to ensure the safety of the patrons and staff in the building.

Being a 90-year-old building, the electrical, heat and ventilating systems were found to be outdated and not code compliant. During the planning stage while waiting for architectural drawings and permits, 88 holes in the original ceiling were patched, the current drop ceiling was removed and, for the first time in many years, the 28-foot storefront sales floor was brought out for everyone to see. It was a remarkable sight before the repairs were even completed. Upon receiving the permits to commence repairs, the framing of the interior walls were completed and the mechanical system installations began. On completion of the mechanical systems, drywall was hung and the building was painted.

The fire that ravaged the store had ironically managed to uncover one of the city’s hidden gems, and through the rebuilding process, the space has been completely renewed to its former glory days with skylights, a 28-foot barreled ceiling and a long, uninterrupted sales floor beautifully lit to show off the architecture from 90 years ago. The recently completed emergency services and disaster response work included structural board-up, water extraction and remediation, structural drying, demolition, fire, soot and smoke damage clean-up, building stabilization, deodorizing and reconstruction, and a little remodeling.

The crew, with help from many private contractors, completed the work to ensure the store would be open for the Christmas holidays the following December. In fact, the store was ready for North Bay’s annual Christmas Walk, where residents walked with their families down Main Street to visit all the wonderful storefronts. On the opening day, the Mayor, other North Bay officials, store owner John Lyle and his family, Matt Brooks and Bob Clarke from Paul Davis Systems, news crews as well as many other patrons and friends were all present to see the red ribbon cut. It was a remarkable and heartwarming ceremony and the owners couldn’t have been happier with the work done, and the absolutely gorgeous original look restored.