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Protecting your property from potential fire damage

We – like many of you who love our community – are still reeling from last weekend’s devastating fire that destroyed the Armory Building in Aberdeen.

In addition, to the top-notch Aberdeen Museum and the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society Research Library, the classic old building housed the Coastal Community Action Program – the largest social service agency in the county – as well as the Aberdeen Senior Center – where seniors gather and where the Meals on Wheels program produced its meals.

The loss is tremendous. However, with the typical Grays Harbor “helping your neighbor,” attitude emerging immediately, it is a toss-up between how much pain and loss we are experiencing as a community and how much heart-warming encouragement and hope we find as we see the compassion, generosity and hard work demonstrated by firefighters, other professionals, leaders and volunteers.

It’s amazing that Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) is already up and running after being offered the nearby former Bank of America building as a temporary office so that they can get back to the work of helping the elderly and vulnerable in our community.

And the wonderful gift of $10,000 from the Grays Harbor Community Foundation to the museum to help with initial clean up expenses makes us thankful again for that organization and all it does for this community.

(The Friends of the Museum Board has already established a website to collect donations either through PayPal or at Anchor Bank. The website is aberdeenmuseumofhistorydonations.


We love the buttons popping up everywhere that say, “Rising From the Ashes Is What We Do!” And, we especially love the big thinking that as many diligently work to restore and fight-the clock to preserve irreplaceable photographs and documents, that others are already planning and dreaming to rebuild the museum in a big, bold way.

It is true, that as a community, “Rising from the ashes is what we do!” And yet, after the devastating 2002 Aberdeen High School fire just a block away from this one, this tragedy also brings to mind just how vulnerable we all are to fire and other disasters.


We hope nothing like this ever happens to your home or office. But what if it did?

While a fire, flood or other disaster is always emotional, even devastating, having a plan in place that helps preserve legal documents, photographs and priceless possessions can lessen some of the chaos and loss after such an event.

Maybe your banking information can be easily be reproduced, but sifting through ashes or in the basement full of water to find insurance policies, credit card information, wills, deeds, or other key identifying documents just adds more stress, confusion and pain to an already difficult situation.

The CCAP agency was able to recover much of their records due to offsite storage of data. Luck preserved some critical hard drives onsite too saving time. But that’s why you want to do what you can to duplicate key information, having it stored off site—perhaps in a bank vault or simply in a fire-proof, water-proof safe. Some of what you have can be placed “on the cloud” or even just e-mailed to yourself as a document in an account that you can access from any computer. The point is to have and follow a plan for the worst disaster possible and duplicate your records in a way that prevents actual loss.

This column often discusses the causes and risks of fire which increases during the winter months. The usual suspects are heating issues, power outages and decorating for Christmas, candles and cooking concerns. However, fire is a year-round risk caused by all the above and more. From aging electrical systems that heat up to oily rags in a pile that self-combust to BBQs cooking too close to the house, fire is a hungry and age-old foe that is opportunistic and must be contained or prevented.

In the meantime, if you don’t have multiple, up-to-date tested smoke and CO detectors, just know they are the first part of a great plan because they save lives.

Take a walk around your house and look for potential fire hazards – Do you have paint and solvents stored in a safe, secure place? Are old rags used for such DIY-projects washed and separated? They can spontaneously combust, if they are stored tightly together, you know.

When was the last time you had someone inspect your electrical system? Many of our homes here are older and some feature a jerry-rigged wiring puzzle. Paying a professional to inspect could save both precious life and memories.


We will offer more safety and preservation tips next week.

In the meantime, we again offer our gratitude to all the fire departments that responded to last Saturday’s inferno, including those that came as back up to free Aberdeen Fire Department to fight the fire.

We are glad we are from a community that knows how to Rise from the ashes. Let’s also become a community that is prepared so that fire, when it comes, isn’t so devastating.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is ADA compliant, complete with a designated disabled parking spot, ramp and ADA compliant restroom.

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