The call came through early evening on Thursday, July 2, just days before Independence Day. Jeff Cole, Menold's Estimator, was on call that night and answered the phone. An exterior fire had broken out in the rear building envelope of the OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute in Peoria, sending smoke quickly through all areas of the structure.
Not knowing at the time if this was major or minor, Jeff gathered his equipment and headed to the scene. He arrived at 7 p.m. to find the Peoria Fire Department still working hard to vent the smoke out of the facility. After seeing the smoke would be affecting most of the building, but still not able to enter himself, Jeff quickly called other leads on our staff – JD Lindsey, Jon Stapel, and others. At 9 p.m., Jeff was finally able to step into the halls, knowing he would be greeted by varying amounts of soot and smoke damage. The Peoria Fire Chief informed our team that the damage covered the entire building and was worse on some floors than others.
Jon Stapel had arrived as back up, while JD was recruiting a team for some late-night work that would begin at 11 p.m. Our crew entered the building with all the air scrubbers we could round up on short notice, collected from our Morton, Bloomington, and Champaign branches, and set them up to do their jobs.
By Monday, we had over 100 scrubbers distributed throughout the building, delivering an impressive amount of HEPA-filtered air. We were ready to hit the ground full speed ahead, even late at night, but, of course, all projects have their set-backs. The Fire Department was unsure if the Health Department would be involved since there were medications in the building, so we had to wait until we received the go-ahead. Emails went out to our entire company, notifying employees of the commercial loss and asking everyone to adjust their schedules and prepare for a focused weekend ahead looking for consistent push and dedication to this project.
A short night of sleep later, Jeff received a call Friday morning that the Health Department was not involved, so the job would require an immediate all-hands-on-deck approach. Steve Driscoll, our VP, met Jeff on the scene and the two of them were led throughout the building by the Fire Chief and staff from OSF HealthCare. The approximately 76,000 square foot building would require every square inch to be cleaned due to the varying soot levels, some of which were not even visible at the time. Jon and JD were able to round up a crew in the late morning, and a plan was quickly formed with OSF and POINTCORE Construction. It would be a joint effort, with our Menold crews collaborating with POINTCORE to tackle a job in one week that would commonly take a month or more.
It was decided Menold would coordinate the cleaning, and POINTCORE would facilitate the repairs. We knew what a devastating loss this was for the OSF Cardiovascular Institute, so we committed to use all our resources to get this done as quickly as possible. With our 4th of July plans out the window, our Menold crew worked until late Friday evening, packing up all the belongings from approximately 250 office spaces, and beginning to clean the soot from each floor. Patrick, Rachel, James and Sean managed the team on Friday while Jeff, Jon, and JD formulated a plan for the next seven days. This was going to be a significant undertaking for our team, and a major challenge to tackle in just a week's time.
Our crew woke with the sun on July 4, and JD and Jon took over for Jeff as the leads on the project. More than 125 people arrived that morning from both Menold and POINTCORE teams combined. For a job of this size, we called on all departments in each of our branches to jump in and get their hands dirty. It was awesome seeing the entire Menold team working together to accomplish the goal; we are an incredibly strong team, especially when all three of our branches come together. The next steps included removing all ceiling tile throughout the building, which POINTCORE handled, then having our Menold teams begin the process of cleaning from the decking above the ceiling grid all the way down to the floor. Once the structure was cleaned, we then deodorized the building.
A couple of key smoke-affected areas that would prove the most challenging to clean were the elevator shaft and the atrium space. Rachel was able to climb into the elevator shaft alongside representatives from the elevator company, Kone, to carefully remove the soot contamination, then work with the painters from POINTCORE to seal the structure. This was no small feat due to difficulty of access and lighting, but the team persevered and completed the task without issue.
Another interesting part of the cleaning process was the 40-foot-high Atrium ceiling with large suspended drywall clouds. Reaching above the clouds to clean the soot and dust that had settled would prove to be difficult due to the height and tight space. Fortunately, we secured some large lifts to rise 40 feet up and reach the space. We then engineered a negative air chamber utilizing our air scrubbing equipment combined with axial air movers that would create a tunneling effect directly through our HEPA equipment. With all the equipment carefully placed we used pressurized air to blast the soot & dust into the wind vortex, leaving behind a clean & deodorized space.
The next few days passed in a blur, with our Menold crews working 12-hour days with multiple shifts. We worked early in the morning, and long into the night, striving to meet our one-week goal. JD Lindsey did an amazing job of leading the charge - coordinating information with the team, calling our partners to assist, and meeting with the leads of OSF and POINTCORE every day for a team huddle. Menold was honored to work alongside the POINTCORE team, and our working relationship throughout the week was fantastic. As soon as the first round of cleaning was accomplished, POINTCORE was there to start the repairs. It was amazing to watch their efficiency as well! Tile had to be replaced on every floor, but there was no local availability for that much ceiling tile. POINTCORE called the tile manufacturer, Armstrong, and after some discussion, Armstrong essentially shut down operations and moved the OSF project to the front of the line. The result was having the necessary ceiling tile delivered right on time. The moment our Menold crew stepped off our ladders and removed our cleaning gloves, POINTCORE was there installing the new tile. Once the installation was complete, we immediately returned for an additional round of cleaning from the dust and debris from the tile installation.
We at Menold want to thank all our partners and companies we worked alongside for the week. From our great working relationship with OSF HealthCare and POINTCORE Construction, to each company that stepped in and made sacrifices so the job could continue to move forward as quickly as possible. Peerless Restoration out of Decatur cleaned the HVAC system as well as laundered all bedding, garments, & curtains with an incredible turnaround time. Squeegee Squad of Peoria handled all glass cleaning throughout the building and made it look spectacular. Maloney Services & Vonachen Services both of Peoria assisted with cleaning throughout the building. JonDon & Aramsco were both able to make sure we had all the supplies we needed right on time. Both Sunbelt Rentals and One Source Rentals provided the lifts needed to reach all the tough areas. We could not have done it without such an awesome community!
Through such a critical job and full work week, we realized again how important it is to have team members who have each other's backs at all times. Because of the challenging timeline, each and every individual at Menold came on the scene at some point to pitch in, and all of the hard work paid off. It felt so great to watch the OSF Cardiovascular Institute open its doors again, and to know they can once again serve our central Illinois community. Without each team member, each branch, each crew, each partnership, each member of the community who assisted on the job, we would never have been able to meet our goal.
Fire restoration jobs are never timely and never easy. We hurt for those who lost a part of their business or home to a fire. But one of the best feelings in the world is giving of our time and labor to ensure they are well cared for, and the job is well done. Thank you to OSF HealthCare for allowing us to be a part of your restoration story!