IREM Blogs

Fire Aftermath: Learning From (Painful) Experience

April 12, 2019 | John Salustri

Practical and at times disturbing, “Fire Aftermath: What Property Managers Need to Know,” a recent IREM Accelerator Webinar, brought the reality of fire risk to the forefront. Practical and disturbing because moderator Mindy Gronbeck, CPM, of Boise, Idaho-based Hawkins Cos., lived through the experience of watching her offices literally go up in smoke. The tips - and the photos - she shares in the webinar, now available on demand, come from that harrowing experience.

The headquarters of Hawkins Cos., an AMO firm, are located in a 75,000-square-foot, three-story building that dates back a century. Restaurants and a nightclub populate the first floor, and the fire began in the empty club, when a contractor cut into a live HVAC duct and a spark touched off the insulation there. It was about 5:00 pm.

Gronbeck, who was on her way home, “flipped a u-ey,” she says, and returned to see smoke pouring from her building and no fewer than 14 fire trucks “in every direction.”

One of the first lessons she learned about dealing with a crisis such as this was the dangers of social media. “Our employees and people from neighboring buildings were taking pictures and posting things immediately online,” and facts flew out the window. Although the fire was smoke-based, she recounts that her husband called her to say he had heard about flames pouring from the building. “We put a policy in place that if it’s any of our buildings, none of our employees can post any information until we get full details.”

Other lessons Gronbeck shares as she walks through a timeline of restoration focus on:

  • Working with your insurance carrier and those of your tenants;
  • The importance of having on hand—and preferably in your IPad—a detailed site plan;
  • How off-site servers can help get everyone back to work;
  • How to deal with city bureaucracies; and
  • Dealing with the press.

“I wish I could say I didn’t have this experience,” Gronbeck stated. “But I’m hoping to share this information today so it will better prepare somebody else.” Go here to get a glimpse into what Gronbeck experienced and the lessons she learned in the process.

About the Author

John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

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