From ashes to  flame – rebuilding after a house fire

Sunshine Coast residents Joanne Rykers & Mike Lane had one of their greatest fears realized when a housefire caused them to lose their home. On a chilly winters day, early 2017, what was believed to be cool ashes from the wood stove were placed in a bucket out on the wooden deck. Unfortunately, the ashes still had a bit of spark left and as the fire started in the vicinity of a small generator with a gas tank, it really took off. Two or three hours into the fire the couple discovered their home in flames.

“January 2nd was a holiday so when I called the insurance company I got a message telling me to call a claims company over in Abbotsford,” recalls Lane. “They immediately got in touch with First Response Restoration and later that same day Marek turned up at the site. At that time the fire brigade had finished but everything was a mess. I remember asking him, ‘well now what’ve you got to do and what’ve I got to do?’ Marek responded, ‘you’ve got to worry. I’ll do the rest.’ And he was true to his word. His people did a fabulous job for us.”

“This one was a big job,” remembers First Response Operation Manager, Stacy Rumba. “When we first arrived, the house was badly burned, the roof was partially gone, very smoke damaged and, of course, soaking wet. Our first job was to sort contents into salvageable, to be brought back to our shop for processing and storing and non-salvageable which we photo document and disposed of. Once the contents of the entire home were removed we then moved on to the building. It was completely gutted with drywall, insulation, appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinets and flooring all removed and disposed of. The entire roof had to be removed and rebuilt before the building was sealed and dried. Once dry we washed and encapsulated all the remaining surfaces and smoke sealed all the framing and concrete.”



First Response worked on the site for nine months so then team got to know Mike and Joanne pretty well. In that time they connected with them on site, stored their belongings in their warehouse and moved them in and out of five different houses. Rumba was in touch almost daily keeping everyone up to date with the restoration plans.

“Marek has obviously impressed on each of his employees, the importance of the customer. Each one of them really relates to the customer extremely well,” says Lane. “We knew we were going to deal with the insurance company and expected to have to fight for everything and we also expected they were going to give contractors a hard time, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find our insurance company, Wawanesa, wasn’t like that at all and second that First Response went out of their way at every turn, to make the experience as easy as possible.”

Once emergency work was complete, rebuild of Rykers and Lane’s home included new insulation, a vapour barrier, drywall and paint in addition to cedar ceilings and trim work. New flooring, cabinets, plumbing fixtures and all finishes were replaced. The deck was rebuilt, siding replaced and the exterior was repainted. The process finished up with a full house clean before all salvageable contents were returned and unpacked.

“One instance I remember,” Lane continues. ”First Response had taken all of our contents out, cleaned them and put them into storage, we were always welcome to go down and get whatever we needed. We moved five times during the restoration and every time First Response would pack us up and move us to the next space. Depending what kind of place we were going into we would need different things out of storage. For one place Joanne went down to the warehouse and picked out stuff she wanted from storage and they loaded it up and delivered it. Three of them came and began unloading boxes and furniture into the house, reassembling the bed and other bits they had disassembled at the last place. One person unpacked all the boxes, all the kitchen stuff and put clothing into the cupboards. Before she left she washed the floor. That’s what sets them apart. They all really went the extra step which had a tremendous effect. The fact that they were local was also very comforting; we felt really involved in the process.”

“A house catches fire and you watch it burning and the thoughts go through your head, this is the sort of disaster you’ve always dreaded,” reflects Lane.  “But you realise once you get into the rebuild process, especially with great insurance and a great contactor, that it’s no big deal. It’s just stuff and you replace stuff. The only inconvenience was time. We had to wait nine months but at the end of the day we have a better house now than we had before the fire.”

First Response was glad to be a positive part of Mike and Joanne’s journey from emergency site to new home. For tips on fire safety click here.

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