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Fire at fabrication shop offers cautionary tale on insurance coverage

May 15, 2008
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A fire broke out at Ancient Stone of Brentwood, CA, on May 5, causing heavy damage to the fabrication shop. According to Bob Opsal, owner of Ancient Stone, the fire began in a 150-square-foot office adjacent to the shop. The flames passed through an office window that looked onto the shop, and then spread to the lamination station, where the adhesives ignited and greatly accelerated the blaze.

Opsal said that the fire seriously damaged four to five projects that were in the works, and completely destroyed all of Ancient Stone's hand tools. "We do custom work, and we had every single hand tool you can think of," he said. "We also had an edge chiseler and an Omega router that just melted, along with the drop cables and the wheels on the worktables. My personal truck was in the shop, and that was destroyed. The plumbing and electrical systems were also ruined."

In all, Opsal estimates that the shop suffered more than $200,00 worth of damage. "We were able to salvage a couple of the jobs, but for others, we had to order new slabs and start work all over again," he said. "We're still working, though. I have a huge generator, and it allowed us to keep going."

Although the fire spread also to the vicinity of the machinery, the CNC stoneworking center and bridge saw are still operational. "We have a doorway that goes into the machine room, and the fire melted everything on the ceiling there, but it did not destroy the CNC or the saw," Opsal said. "They did have some smoke damage. They were covered in black soot, and we had to get that off. We hand washed them and used WD-40 on everything. There is also some soot on the circuit board of the CNC, so we may have to replace that because soot will kill any type of circuitry."

The shop owner cautioned fabricators to examine their insurance policies to ensure that they would be covered for this type of fire damage. "We thought we were covered for everything, but we weren't. If we had started the fire [in the course of operating the shop], we would have been covered, but not because of this," he said, explaining that the building is a rented property, and investigators are considering arson as a cause of the blaze. "The first thing I thought is to get the word out to fabricators to make sure you are covered in case something like this happens."

On the positive side, Opsal said he has received a great deal of support from the industry. "I'm just glad we're working. I'm a member of the Stone Fabricators Alliance, and I'm good friends with fabricators in our area, and they've all been great -- offering to do work for us, installs -- whatever it takes," he said. "The Marble Institute of America has also been very helpful with advice on dealing with the smoke damage and salvaging materials. All of the support has been awesome."

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