Demolition and Construction Companies Mobilize For Recovery Efforts Following Colorado Floods

After torrential flood waters surged through Coal Creek Canyon in Colorado, some evacuated residents would come home – if they could get back to their homes at all – to find 8 to 10 ft. of tree trunks, stumps and branches piled at their front doors. The unprecedented flooding, which had rushed down the canyon side, washed out bridges and culverts, creating huge ditches 25 ft. wide and 20 ft. deep.

“You couldn’t get across some of the ditches even with climbing ropes, they were so massive,” said Rick Givan, Senior Project Manager for Fiore & Sons, Denver, a National Demolition Association (NDA) member company. “People had to leave their homes in the middle of the night, walking out with just a suitcase, leaving behind pets, refrigerators full of food and homes with no power. You can only imagine what they were thinking.”

Fast Response

After the worst of the flooding which took place September 9 to 12, Fiore was called in by the Colorado Department of Transportation as an emergency responder to help get life back to normal in the canyon nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills northwest of Denver. Already pre-qualified by the state of Colorado and many municipalities for emergency response, the demolition contractor got right to work, collaborating alongside of Lawrence Construction, a heavy civil construction company.

“The folks from the state said ‘What can you do to help us out? We want these people back in their homes’” Givan reported. “And just 24 hours after attending a pre-con with the state, we were on site with our crew. It was up to Fiore and Lawrence to design the means and methods of responding to the flood damage.

“First it was critical to remove the debris off of the highway. You have fallen utility lines and exposed gas lines. There is tree and other organic materials laying all over the place, plus their possessions like four wheelers and lawn mowers washed onto the highway,” Givan described.

The team of contractors split up the responsibilities, with Lawrence working in the creek area, building rip-rap shoring along Highway 72 and other roads in the area. Fiore started with debris removal to get the road open again. Huge chunks of asphalt roadway had broken from the side of the highway, falling away and making at least one lane impassable in most areas.

“Our goal was to get the vehicles moving again and to get people back to their homes as quickly as possible,” Givan said. “People’s pets had been deserted and the homes were susceptible to break-ins since they were left unattended. We knew we had to get moving quickly.”

Fiore’s worked crews of about a dozen men initially around the clock and then on 10-hour days moving forward. “They were working under lights in the night, putting in the hard work to get it all done.”

Soon a limited amount of traffic could return to the canyon. Givan noted that Trent Nelson served as project manager and cost engineer, Tony Singh as superintendent and Carmen Sanchez as foreman on this major project. “We’ve been getting lots of kudos for the work the crews have been handling,” Givan said.

Continuing Recovery Efforts

Just recently, the Wall Street Journal covered the challenge of getting the roads repaired and back in use. In article by Donna Bryson, she wrote, “As officials here grapple with the aftermath of massive floods, it has become clear that recovery hinges on fixing the hundreds of miles of washed-out roads. Repairing the routes is critical to getting materials and construction teams to thousands of damaged or destroyed homes, businesses, power stations and sewage systems in the roughly 1,500-square-mile region scarred by the disaster...”

The equipment for the project has included front-end loaders for the debris clean-up and material handling and small skip loaders for working in and around tight areas and narrow spots. The contractors also used one “fairly large” excavator with a thumb for doing the asphalt and other paving demolition and a series of tractor trailers as dump trucks, plus some tandem trucks.

After Fiore cleaned up the organic debris, it has continued to remove asphalt and has been working on some of the highway work alongside of Lawrence. “We’ve imported shouldering material – crushed rock – to expand the shoulders of the road,” Givan said.

In addition to the highway work, Fiore has been responsible for demolishing some of the homes that were irreparably damaged by the flooding and not safe for occupancy. In total, 14 homes were destroyed in the Coal Creek Canyon and 200 homes damaged.

Demolition Firms as Second Responders

Fiore has more highway to repair and anticipates substantial completion of the huge undertaking by Thanksgiving. “The relationship between Fiore & Sons and Lawrence Construction and with the Colorado Department of Transportation has been a great example of how demolition contractors are especially suited to serve as ‘second responders’ after natural and man-made disasters,” Givan pointed out.

Communicating the message that demolition contractors are uniquely qualified to provide the equipment and skills necessary to save lives and property has become part of the mission of the NDA, according to Michael R. Taylor, CAE, executive director of the association. “Our Disaster Response Committee has been working hard to communicate to FEMA, states, municipalities – any organization responsible for emergency response – to have them pre-qualify the companies that can provide the resources they need.”

The association asks directly concerned parties to visit its website for more information about its Disaster Response effort.