As crane operators went to work knocking down the remaining overhead beams in the Aberdeen Armory Building on Wednesday, ServPro Operations Manager Teresa Gran took a minute to watch. She noted that some artifacts could still be intact and hidden beneath the large piles of rubble.
“As a wall falls, a picture may be on there under all that rubble,” said Gran. “So, as we start pulling away the layers, we still may be able to salvage things we had no idea about.”
Throughout Tuesday, a large team of ServPro workers and a half-dozen state archivists carted out numerous boxes of documents and photos from the basement of the Aberdeen Museum of History. Gran was excited to say that the team successfully recovered everything they intended to on Tuesday.
“Anything we knew that was going to be salvaged and was important, we got,” she said. “… To me, to see how much stuff came out of there, it brings me back hope that we can salvage a lot of it and bring it to the next museum or wherever they’re going to rebuild.”
This collection includes historic photos from Aberdeen’s founding era, as well as text documents and old film reels.
On Saturday morning, a massive fire destroyed most of the historic Armory Building in Aberdeen. It hosted a number of important groups, including the museum, the Coastal Community Action Program, the Senior Center, and the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society research library.
The ServPro workers were prepared to stay out all-night on Tuesday pulling documents if they had to before the fire investigators forced them to leave. Instead, they were able to wrap up the recovery by 6 p.m. The photographs and film reels were taken to the Washington State Archives in Olympia to be repaired, while the paper documents are at a facility in Puyallup to be restored via a freeze drying process.
Some on social media have said they were shocked that so many documents were intact following such a large fire, but Gran said it wasn’t that surprising given it was just water damage.
“I could see they didn’t have the huge collapses in the basement,” she said. “I knew there was a lot of water damage, but water is something that can be fixed.”
Now, fire investigators, members of the Aberdeen Fire Department and other agencies will attempt to determine the cause of the fire. Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard said it won’t be until next week at the earliest that they know what started it.
On Tuesday, investigators took a first walkthrough of the burned out building, and used cranes to remove two large air conditioners that posed a potential threat for those walking beneath them. In addition, the cranes were used to knock down the remaining beams from the roof.