After flood or fire, it’s Dowling’s to the rescue | PostIndependent.com
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After flood or fire, it’s Dowling’s to the rescue

Greg Masse
Staff Writer

In the wake of the recent fires throughout the state, many homes sustained moderate to heavy smoke damage, but remained structurally intact. Also, some people in the area are in a position where flooding still threatens their home or business.

It’s the type of problem that doesn’t get much thought until it happens to you.

So in these cases, where do people go to get help?

Eagle resident Mike Dowling, owner of the Avon-based Dowling’s Professional Cleaning and Restoration, would suggest that his company could come to the rescue.

Twenty-eight years ago, Dowling said, he went to a flooring store and convinced the owner he could install carpets.

“My dad had started a carpet cleaning business, and I learned the rudiments from him,” Dowling said.

From there, things just started to expand.

“We branched out into fire restoration and floods,” he said.

The company routinely takes what could be a heartbreaking situation for a homeowner and turns it into another success story.

He explained what his business is and how it performs these minor miracles.

“We just sort of grew up in the restoration and carpet cleaning industry.”

Every job is a bit different, but after 27 years of experience and more than 10,000 floods, Dowling’s has a good system going.

“I think smoke is a little worse than water. A house that’s smoked up is awful. A lot of the things that burn are toxic,” Dowling explained.

A prime example of the type of situation where Dowling’s is needed was in the days following the Coal Seam Fire in Glenwood Springs.

“What we like to do is set up air scrubbers,” he said.

Dowling’s uses HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) filters that draw air through the air scrubber and shoot purified air out the other side.

“It pulls all the gunk out of the air and all the pollution and clears up the air,” he said.

Then Dowling’s works on “source removal.”

“Everything that needs to be wiped up or cleaned off. Everything burnt needs to be removed or encapsulated.

“If it’s badly charred, it needs to be taken out.”

The company has many techniques at its disposal.

“We have dry-ice blasting, baking-soda blasting, we can blast the surface. Those blasters can use different-sized materials for finer or coarser cleaning.

“The fine (particles) can be used on furniture,” he said. “You could take the paint off a car without hurting the windows.”

Dowling’s also uses ozone generators to clean smoke from an area.

“It’s got an extra molecule of oxygen, which combines with smoke and neutralizes it. It can be used in cars or homes.”

Some of these techniques were used at Dunlap’s in the Glenwood Springs Mall after the Coal Seam Fire burned to the edge of town.

The company also specializes in flood remediation. It runs ads in local newspapers with a Superman-type character with “Dowling’s” written across his chest instead of the familiar “S.”

“First is extraction. You want to get out as much of the standing water as possible,” he said.

Workers then come in with air movers, which circulate the air above the wet surface, speeding the evaporation process.

“It’s like a Chinook wind,” he said.

Then, when the water is in the air, Dowling’s uses dehumidifiers to dry that moist air.

“We’ve got some special systems for drying out hardwood floors,” Dowling said.

Usually the drying process after a flood takes three to five days, but if the water was standing for a while, it can take as long as two weeks.

“We did two houses in Glenwood. Both homeowners were very thrilled with the house.”

“Also, we set up some air-scrubbing equipment for Two Rivers Chevrolet.”

In addition to the local outlet in Glenwood Springs, Dowling and his brother own a national drying company called American Moisture Control.

“We have drying equipment in 30 locations spread around the country,” he said. “We do work from Washington state to Puerto Rico.”

The company has performed drying services in every state in the United States with the exceptions of Alaska and Hawaii.

In 1993, Dowling’s dried buildings affected by floods on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

“We started in Iowa, then we went to Missouri. We dried out several schools, motels and hotels. We also dried out a city center and a law library.”

The biggest problem with drying books is that they’re particularly susceptible to mold, a common problem the company has begun focusing more attention on.

“We’ve always encountered mold, but only in the last few years people have realized mold is such a serious problem,” he said.

It can get into temperature control systems, flaring up allergies, or worse.

“We’re doing a lot of jobs where other companies dry and we take care of the mold,” he explained. “As a result, we formed a cleanup company called Premier Environmental Services.”

His head man in that company, Mark Bender, was an asbestos remover for more than 20 years, a background that suits mold removers well.

“You’re cleaning things you can’t see,” Dowling said. “It’s just one of those labor-intense processes.”

Asbestos is still out there, he said, but since much of it has been removed from structures during the last 20 to 30 years, asbestos workers are finding other pollutants to clean.

“I would say 95 percent of our work has been mold,” he said. “Mold is always moisture-related, it always has to do with wetness.”

Usually mold isn’t noticed until it grows big enough to see, like on an old piece of bread. But Dowling said the spores can be harmful even when invisible.

“Some put off microtoxins to protect their territory,” he said. And while most people’s bodies can fight off mold quite easily, those with immune deficiencies can be drastically affected.

“One woman had it in her face and she lost teeth,” he said, pointing out that mold can cause the disease aspergiliosis.

“They say 40 percent of leukemia patients who get aspergiliosis die,” he said.

Another dangerous type of mold is stachybotris, which he said doctors linked to 12 children in Cleveland who died.

“It caused hemorrhaging. It’s very toxic.”

The mold was found in the cooling systems where the children lived.

“Swamp coolers are notorious for having mold,” he said, suggesting that people use hydrogen peroxide when cleaning their cooler.

“A spray will kill it on contact.”

Another notable flood and smoke remediation job done by Dowling’s company was the World Financial Center No. 2 in New York City, the largest building left standing in the area of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We also dried the General Motors building in Detroit and buildings in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Georges,” he said.

To contact Dowling’s, call 945-2197. The company promises to be there in 30 minutes or less. Also, there’s no extra charge for holidays, weekends or after-hours service.


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