From the smoke and ashes

After nine months of renovations, AC and D Insurance is done.

Sandra Lewis

Sandra Lewis

After nine months of renovations, AC and D Insurance is done.

Sandra Lewis, AC and D Insurance Services manager, sits in her newly renovated office, admiring the dusty blue wall colour, fresh carpets and updated furnishings.

Lewis is relieved to be finished the long nine months of renovations after the fire, April 25 of last year next door at Savalas Steakhouse.

Lewis recalls that night, when she got the call at midnight.

“Savalas was engulfed in flames,” she said.

“It was blue with smoke in here.”

AC and D is located right next door to the restaurant and due to an inadequate firewall, the business suffered extensive smoke and water damage.

“We had no way of knowing about the firewall,” she said, adding the building was older and had passed inspections when they purchased it.

After the fire, Lewis said she needed to make a judgement call on whether to find a new location or to renovate.

“We had no idea what we were dealing with at the beginning of the claim and [there was] no place to easily move to,” she said.

They definitely didn’t anticipate the long months of work ahead of them.

The damage came from the compressed smoke, which left soot and smoke in every opening in the office.

“It got everywhere, we had to rip all the drywall down to stud and then smoke seal,” Lewis explained.

And in an office of 3,000 sq.ft., that is a challenge – especially when the business continued to have regular business hours.

“We didn’t close, we worked around it,” she said.

“We are an insurance service, a professional service – you can’t just shut down.

“It was a professional call I made to stick it out – the conditions were less than [they] should have been.”

The cost pushed $300,000 in damages and they had to build a firewall, which cost $90,000.

But Lewis said, “We did have very good insurance that covered it all.”

The firewall was one of the reasons the renovations took so long.

“The firewall set us back two months,” she said.

Lewis notes even an insurance agency, which has priority, can be faced with circumstances that cause delay.

Lewis was very thankful of her staff for working through the conditions with such a positive attitude and for their ability to work through it all. She also notes the workers were very accommodating about working around the hours of business.

Their clients patience was much appreciated as well.

In the end, Lewis says it is an experience that she has learned a lot from, but would never want to go through it again.

“Not an experience you’d want anyone to go through,” she

said.

But now they’ve experienced it, she said they have “an understanding of what our clients go through.”

She also said that she has learned more during this than in her 35 years experience.

Lewis stressed the warmth and support of Quesnel.

“Everyone was so helpful – the insurance company, the adjuster, contractors and staff,” she said.

“[We have] a phenomenal community with so much understanding.

The beauty of a small community is that people really do care.”