The early morning hours of April 24, 2013 started as they normally do at the Cabela’s store in Dundee, MI, as night employees restocked shelves and carried out other duties in the closed 225,000 square foot facility.

Then, around 1 a.m. a light fixture malfunctioned, melting the cover of the light and dripping on top of the store’s Under Armour display which was directly underneath it (Image 1). The display caught fire, and while the nighttime crew was able to quickly extinguish it, they couldn’t prevent the store’s ventilation system from sucking up the soot and smoke from the flames… and dispersing it throughout the entire store.

In a matter of minutes, everything was covered in soot – the animal displays, fish tanks, merchandise, trophy animals, even the shoe department, which was behind a completely different wall. (Image 2 and 3)

Naturally, Cabela’s – a large business and southeast Michigan entertainment attraction – wanted to be opened again as quickly as possible. But there was literally 225,000 square feet worth of store to be cleaned from top to bottom in order for that to happen. Rainbow International of Monroe (MI) was called to the scene.

“The whole store was pretty much covered in smoke,” says Jason Kitts, Owner, who had to take a flight immediately out of Las Vegas where he was attending the 2013 RIA Convention to help his staff with the job.

Prior to Cabela’s, the largest job Kitts said he and his company worked was a 120,000 square foot warehouse, so this was a bit of uncharted territory. He estimates that a job of this size and scope would normally take anywhere from 3 to 4 months – but they knew that Cabela’s wanted to open as quickly as possible to minimize business interruption. Because of this, all cleaning was done on-site, rather than packing everything out, cleaning it all off-site and bringing it back to the store.

So they got to work – doing all the necessary cleaning at the same time, aside from soft contents which were removed from the store by Cabelas’ merchandiser. And Kitts and his crew were aided by dozens and dozens of Cabela’s employees to help speed the process and eliminate business down time. Kitts estimates that they had about 200 people an hour working the job. (Image 4)

“We had to wipe down every hard surface, clean everything, clean all the carpets, hard surfaces,” Kitts said. “Everything got cleaned from top-down. We’d clean something, wrap it in plastic, clean something, wrap it in plastic.” (Image 5)

The crew was also aided by about 100 hydroxyl units and 100 negative air machines to clean the air – all of which ran for five days.

But aside from cleaning the store, there was also the task of cleaning out the system that had helped create the mess in the first place – the ducts. For this, Kitts called upon Amistee Duct Cleaning & Insulation.

The ducts alone took 45 people and four days to clean. Mike McCowan, Amistee co-owner, said that every piece of equipment the company owns was used on the job, including 9 vacuum trucks, 6 portable HEPA negative air machines and portable air compressors to run all of the equipment.

“The duct cleaning for the Cabela’s job was particularly difficult due to the size and height of the ductwork,” McCowan said. “Almost all of our work was done off large boom lifts. With 100 or more Cabela’s employees and restoration workers all cleaning at the same time, moving around to get to the ductwork was the biggest challenge.” (Image 6 and 7)

 All in all, a job that normally would take 3 to 4 months to complete took a total of nine days, allowing for minimal business interruption.