After the Fire

Cleaning fire-damaged Courthouse
an unusual task for Madison’s ServPro

Drying out water saturated
building took nearly a week

By Don Ward

After the Fire logo

(August 2009) – In the days and weeks after the Jefferson County Courthouse fire, Duane and Nina Schmidt spent much of their time managing a staff of 11 employees in the massive cleanup effort. The couple, who own the Madison franchise of ServPro, are used to such messes caused by water, smoke and fire. But the Courthouse job had special meaning, considering they are natives of Madison.
ServPro was hired a day after the May 20 fire and immediately went to work, They hired the Detroit-based Electronic Restoration Services Inc. to remove, transport and freeze four semi-truck loads and several box trucks of paper documents and computer hard drives. They got their generators in place on the Jefferson Street sidewalk on the west side of the Courthouse and positioned 200 fans throughout the building by 3 p.m. that same afternoon.
The Schmidts spent the better part of the next month at the Courthouse removing, sorting and disposing of the building’s contents, and drying the halls of the historic structure. They did this as firefighters continued to douse hot spots through Sunday afternoon, four days after the fire started.

Liz Hill

Photos by Don Ward

ServPro employee Liz Hill (above)
prepares one of 200 fans for transport
after they had been used to dry
out the halls and rooms of the
Jefferson County Courthouse
following the May 20 fire. (Below)
Left, Madison ServPro franchise
owners Duane and Nina Schmidt pose
in front of the Courthouse in June.

Duane and Nina Schmidt

“It’s a big job, but we are used to taking on such projects,” said Duane Schmidt, 51, a Rose Hulman Institute of Technology-educated engineer who retired early from his previous job in Evansville and purchased the Madison ServPro franchise six years ago. They already owned a home in Madison and commuted for a while, finally moving there to operate the business.
ServPro is a 40-year-old national company headquartered in Gallatin, Tenn., that specializes in fire and water cleanup and restoration.
The computer hard drives were sent to Indianapolis, where they were restored and returned within a week. The paper documents have been freeze-dried in a storage warehouse in Livonia, Mich. In late June a bus load of county employees traveled there to sort out those documents deemed important enough to salvage. The rest will be disposed.
Meantime, the Schmidts and their employees hauled out desks, chairs, tables, filing cabinets and all sorts of office items from all three floors and the basement, where water stood at times as deep as four inches, Nina said. The work required ServPro to hire more than a dozen people from Manpower, while ERS used about 25 people for its job to remove and haul the documents.
“This is probably the biggest job we’ve done as far as a fire,” Duane said. He cited a block containing five buildings in Lawrenceburg, Ind., that burned in 2008 that rivaled the job in scope. The Schmidts also worked on the Madison Elks Lodge and Old City Hall, both of which burned in August 2006.
Ironically, the Schmidts had already worked on the Courthouse not long ago when they were hired to remove pigeon dung from inside the cupola.
The Schmidts say they have seen a lot of strange things in their line of work. On one job they came across a six-week-old dead bull. Yes, as in cattle. Asked about the strangest thing found during the Courthouse cleanup, they said they came across a live snake on the second floor. They joked that Superior Court Judge Alison Frazier must have kept the pet snake in her second floor office to keep away troublemakers.
Whether it’s bulls or snakes or other vermin, the Schmidts certainly have a job like no other. “Every job is different, “ Nina says. “It just makes our life interesting.”

Back to August 2009 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta