(They’re not as innocent as they look)
Scott and Lindsay Sanderson had an active household as you would imagine of a corporate-career couple with three children under the age of five. Their lives were full while making beautiful memories as a family. One spring day, Scott trimmed a backyard tree and burned the dead branches in the fire pit as Lindsay managed projects in the house.
That night and the next morning, it rained, and when Scott returned home from work, he transferred the wet fire pit ashes to a garbage can and, for added caution, sprayed them with the garden hose and set the covered can next to the garage. With that done, as Lindsay and the two younger children set out to visit Grandma, Scott and their eldest headed for the Twins game—the makings of a perfect day.
It was strictly disbelief when Scott’s phone buzzed, and he saw a video of their house with two guys grabbing the hose and running. His gut feeling told him what was happening, but it didn’t seem possible. He had placed the ash-filled garbage at the side of the garage. His thoughts calmed him somewhat imagining that at least any damage would be minimal and limited to the garage. Thankfully, the house would be fine.
Neighbors had also called Lindsay, and they met back at the house. The fire was out when they got there, and the Fire Department and neighbors were there. Quickly, the calm turned to confusion as they saw neighbors removing items from the house. Then, the shock of it all set in.
Not only had the garage wall burned, but the electrical panel had caught on fire. The flames had moved up the garage wall and into the attic of the house. There was no way this should have happened. There had been water in the fire pit and in the garbage can. It was all surreal.
That unforgettable day was May 26, 2019.
The realization came slowly, but the facts were clear. There was A LOT of damage. The garage door was bad and the front door to the house was broken. The master bedroom wall was knocked out to gain access in fighting the fire. The house wasn’t secure, and everything had smoke damage. They left a voicemail for the insurance company, bolted the doors as best they could, and left with a few meager essentials.
Over the next five days, Scott kept trying to reach the insurance agent with no response. He wanted guidance on what to do, how best to secure the house, where to live and how to proceed—but there was nothing but silence. Every day was spent trying to clean up what he could and piling up an unsightly mess of insulation, drywall and debris in the driveway—as if the house itself wasn’t enough of an eyesore and a heartbreak.
As they waited (and waited) for word from the insurance company, things got more emotional and depressing. People started showing up out of the blue wanting to sell their services to act as liaison between the insurance company and contractor. Who do you trust when things are this bad and you have no one to turn to? Your own insurance company that has welcomed your check every year is not even answering your calls. Yet, it didn’t feel right to sign on with these people.
Next in this parade of confusion came a man saying, “Howdy, Neighbor.” He stepped up with a sympathetic gesture and helped cover the heap of trash with a tarp. This was Robert Bauman from Arko Companies who had lived a few doors down, was passing by and stopped to offer a hand.
Robert was the saving grace. He worked at Arko Companies and had decades of experience with exactly this type of disaster. They talked and Robert explained the process (which would be lengthy) and how emotional and difficult it would be at times. He painted the true picture but also offered the light at the end of the tunnel which he knew would be there. He offered Arko’s help if it was wanted.
Robert’s manner and explanations provided a much more comfortable path than the negative vibes received from the professional adjustors, so the decision was made to move forward with Arko Companies. On the 6th day, Scott went to see the insurance agent and set up a meeting. After meeting with Robert, the insurance adjustor and the adjustor’s supervisor the next day, the family moved into a rental house.
The damage was assessed, and everything was trashed or inventoried. All salvageable items were moved out of the house in 4-5 days and sent to a facility for professional cleaning and storage. The house was empty. There was obviously so much damage to the house and garage, and a lot of electrical work was needed since the wires had melted.
For three long months, work on the house was at a standstill while the insurance company refused to approve adequate funds to put the house back in shape. Robert was relentless in standing his ground to make sure the homeowners would get what they needed. It was brutal. They were displaced with none of their personal belongings, and no end in sight.
Yet, Robert was a calming force for the couple and never yielded to unreasonable insurance dictates that would have them settle for so much less than they were due. After three exasperating months, the insurance company finally acquiesced and sent in a large loss director to help settle the claim. Finally, reason prevailed, and they were able to recondition and renovate the home to meet code.
Scott recalled what Robert had said at the beginning—that there would be a lot of emotions: anger, depression, wanting to give up. He had also assured him that Arko would get them what they needed and get them back in as quickly as possible. It was the best conversation they could have had because it ended up being true. It was a frustrating battle.
It was seven months after the fire that the Sandersons were able to safely move back into their home. Thanks to Robert and Arko, the home was as good as new—or better—with new insulation and drywall. They didn’t settle for half a roof or improper reconditioning procedures. Arko knew how to buy superior products at a discount. The floors matched and the house met all codes. The sad part was that three months had been wasted on insurance company inefficiencies and negotiations.
Scott and Lindsay were grateful that Robert came along when he did and saved them the possible mistake of signing on with one of the random adjustors. They had been told that if they chose to sign on with them, they would lose their right to talk with the insurance company. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case in working with Arko. They had all the necessary conversations, frustrating as they were at times.
Robert did all the things promised by these people as part of the normal Arko process. He never wavered in his stand and insisted on following the rules and current codes. And, he was always there to help calm the nerves of the homeowners in distress.
Another obvious blessing on that dreadful day was the quick action of the guys who came by, saw the fire, called the Fire Department, and got the hose. Without their rapid response, the Fire Chief said the whole house would have gone up in smoke. The Sandersons are forever grateful to the kids who saved the day, the Fire Department, and Robert and Arko Companies.
Because of this nightmare, neighbors and friends are now taking much more caution in handling ashes from the grill, fireplace, firepit and even fireworks. They will not place them in the garbage until the night before pickup when the can is by the street. They’ve learned that ashes don’t always go out. You need to let them sit for a week—and, absolutely, never put the garbage can of ashes in the garage!
Scott and Lindsay, it was a pleasure to serve you when you needed us. We know it wasn’t easy, and we appreciate you allowing us to tell your story so that others might be saved this traumatic experience. It’s been almost a year since the fire, and we’re pleased that you and your family are enjoying your beautiful home once again!