Saving Wine, Vines and Precious Memories

2000 firefighters managed to save a vineyard, but the winery and the adjacent home were coated with thick soot and had fire damage to the front porch of the house, the vats and processing area.

So the structural team headed to the winery, while the contents team went to work on the home.

The owners, a husband and wife, were Israeli and had artifacts from the Holocaust (including area rugs worth $150,000) so they were pretty exacting and cautious about how the treasures were treated.

In fact, the contents pros were tasked with cleaning and restoring everything on site – it was a long drive back to the city and the owners didn’t want to take any chances with such precious items, no matter how well and meticulously they were packed.

In such cases an exhaustive Digital Photo Inventory is kept so that every item that is moved (even rugs) is put back in the exact spot from which it was shifted. This time, the Holocaust artifacts were the rugs.

For smoke damage jobs, soot sponges are liberally used to clean everything from the walls and ceiling, to books, photos and vases (soot sponges are made from a special rubber, actually have no chemicals so they are safe to use on most fragile items, and have the remarkable ability to pull soot off surfaces like a magnet).

And, as tempting as it might be to run smaller objects through an ultrasonics machine for the sake of expediency, there are those objects that are even too delicate for the bubbles generated by sound waves. In those cases, cotton swabs, natural bristle brushes and gentle solutions are used to clean them.

We have even seen an ancient Asian method of cleaning in which a figurine was placed in a bowl of water with a handful of rice, then “swished” and agitated to clean and pull the smoke particulates out, without scratching or degrading the tiny statue in any way.

But often cleaning is not enough, deodorizing must occur for every item and every part of every affected room.

In the case of the winery and the house, HEPA air scrubbers, and ozone machines were brought in. Time was a crucial element – a fresh crop of special grapes was on its way.

The winery structural team and the contents team grew to two round-the-clock crews that labored in tandem and had between 30 and 40 frontline workers (including some local talent as well).

The owner who, as it turned out, was the inventor of “Crunch Berries” (which allowed him to purchase the 209 acres for his vineyard). Was very pleased when the winery was up and running a full 24 hours before the grapes arrived for processing.

The contractor rented all available rooms in a local hotel for weeks thereafter. Why? Because his reputation spread out like ripples in a pond. He was “booked” for some time to come (we suspect that the winery owner had something to do with it).

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