WENATCHEE — The smoke has finally cleared and we can breathe deeply again. Now, the deep cleaning begins. Time to wash the walls and windows, shampoo the carpets and furniture, change the furnace filters and maybe repaint.
Homeowners insurance may cover extensive cleanup work, but local carpet cleaners and disaster restoration contractors say they’ve only had a few jobs related to the fires and smoke. Several companies have been advertising smoke, ash and soot cleanup.
Greg Seeman, owner of Carpet Clean Inc., said he’s booked four or five weeks out right now, but most of it is just normal carpet cleaning work before the holidays.
“As long as people changed their filters and kept their windows closed during the fire they probably won’t have any problems,” he said. Seeman, who has been in business for 28 years said he had lots of business after the Castlerock Fire in 1992. That fire destroyed 18 homes and 15 apartment units and left behind a thick layer of ash and toxic smoke that permeated entire neighborhoods.
“I don’t try to chase fire business. I don’t want anyone to suffer smoke damage because if it hits you, it really hits you. Insurance never really covers the damage,” he said.
Insurance coverage is available, however, for those who need restoration work or a good cleanup, according to Jeremy Sternlicht, a public adjuster for Loss Recovery Services, a California insurance adjusting company that has been running advertisements and contacting homeowners close to the fire.
Sternlicht, who traveled to Wenatchee during the fires, said the company talks with homeowners, collects samples of fire or smoke damaged homes and possessions, has them analyzed for contamination, and then negotiates a settlement with the homeowners’ insurance companies.
“We’re busy,” said Serina Sutton, co-owner of Clean Connection, “but it’s because people have put off what they would have done before.” Sutton said she expected more work directly related to the fires, but that may be still to come. “I thought there would be more. I thought people would be tapping into their insurance.”
Bill Shea, director of operations for France & Co. disaster restoration contractors, said the company had quite a bit of business after the Taylor Bridge Fire near Ellensburg earlier this summer.
“We thought we’d pick up more, but it’s not as much as a crisis now that the smoke has cleared out,” he said.
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151