I felt this would be important enough information to place it here as well as in answering Kent's post.
Having gone through a "moderate" fire, I certainly sympathize with you, and maybe I can offer some suggestions.
First thing I earnestly suggest to everyone is to get a second phone line put in just for the computer. Think about it. Not only can you be reached in a situation like this, but any home-related, or health-related reason for having the phone line free, is good enough reason for having that second line for the computer. In our own situation, often times I can get online to help one of our customers while they are on the phone with me.
Now, about the fire and the aftermath:
My fire was begun by a faulty air pump for the fish tank I had in the office area of my building. I only even had a fish tank because I was keeping a small Largemouth Bass. He was a great conversation piece! The fire was enough that it burned the masonite board along the bottom of the fish stand where the pump sat, then it burned the air lines to the tank. I guess it also started to heat the water.
As the water in the tank got warmer, and the air was no longer being delivered, my poor little bass freaked out enough that as he splashed about, he spread enough water around to douse the flames. Unfortunately, he also managed to leap out of the tank, which ultimately cost him his life! But he alone is responsible for the flames being doused and eliminated! This is no joke! I am totally serious!
However, the smoke that was generated by the flames while they lived, was pushed through the entire building by a system of fans I used to circulate the air, including an oscillating fan that was used to aid in drying some mounts. Needless to say, when I did my regular Sunday morning check on my building, it was like walking into the bowels of Hell! Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was covered in a nice thick layer of soot! And on top of everything else, the air was humid, causing moisture to cling to the layer of soot, making it the nastiest thing I've ever encountered!
The first thing I discovered, was to not wipe the soot off any of the mounts that "survived" the blaze. This will press the soot deeper into the coat of the mount. Instead, I put on a pair of rubber gloves, and one by one brought all the blackened mounts outside, and blew off the soot with compressed air! You want to blow the air with the direction of the hair. You don't want the air to drive the soot further into the coat of the mount.
Do this as many times as needed, until no more soot comes off the mount.
The next cleaning regimen was using Windex glass cleaner. I lightly sprayed some on the mount, and carefully wiped it off with paper towel. It took a lot of Windex, lots of paper toweling, and lots of time to clean the mounts, but in the end I salvaged all mounts in the shop. Some things like a snow base for a customer's coyote had to be redone, but for the most part, the mount was cleaned. Using this method, I was able to clean all Deer heads, an Elk head mount, an Iguana, all small game, fish, and bird mounts. For cleaning my many reference books I had on a set of shelves, I used compressed air only, and that did the trick. Remember, the first instinct is to start wiping everything down! Do not do that! Blow the soot off first!
After the mounts are thoroughly dry, they can be brushed out. If any soot comes to the surface, blow it off, and repeat the cleaning process. Do this as many time as needed until the mount is thoroughly clean.
The building was cleaned by hiring a professional cleaning service. We used Service Master, and they did an excellent job! I handled the mounts because I felt they were what I knew about, and the method I created for cleaning the mounts, has now been adopted by their cleaning service! The mounts I had hanging in the office were the worst hit. They not only received soot, but some of the deer were actually scorched. Believe it or not, I was able to clean them too. upon brushing them out after they dried, the scorched hair tips were brushed away, and no one ever knew what had happened.
I had no mounts lost to the fire, but I was able to recoup the time it would take me to restore everything. I calculated this by figuring my shop-rate into the estimated time it would take me to restore the mounts, as well as the time lost in the cleaning, plus the cost of the Service Master bill. It was quite a settlement, and went a long way to keeping the rent paid.
As for figuring the cost of a lost mount ... take what you charge the customer to mount the animal, add in the cost of a replacement hide (cape), and the time lost to you in the cleanup. Have these figures written down, and be able to back them up with a price list, etc.
Lastly ... make sure you ARE insured. Too many taxidermists take it for granted that they don't need total coverage, and when something like a fire or other catastrophe hits, they're screwed!
I hope this information is of service to you. Again, my regards to you and your family. Keep a positive attitude and you can get through this.
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Thanks John for the insight.
You never know, this could happen to any of us, and it's good to know where to start.
I for one will remember