How and where do I find temporary fire restoration workers?



We’re getting ready to enter our “fire restoration season” here in Colorado.  (It seems that heating systems, especially wood stoves, dramatically increase our restoration work!)  But every year we face a frustrating problem.  How and where did you find workers who want temporary work for fire restoration? We’ve tried using the “want ads” and have had no luck in developing a list of people willing to work hard for one to two weeks and then be without work.

Planning Ahead in Colorado

Good question.  Of course, the traditional way to deal with peaks and valleys in staffing is to go with temp agencies.  However, the downside with this was temps were typically unmotivated and of course totally untrained.  Plus by the time the staffing company added in their charges our temps were expensive workers even though the workers themselves were only getting a fraction of what we were shelling out.

So we tried something a bit different.  We went out and found our own “long term temps”.  The key is to pay these people DOUBLE what they can make anywhere else.  (Our out-of-pocket expenses were about the same.  We just were bypassing the temp agency and investing this money directly in our On Call employees.)  You can afford to do this because you will ONLY use your “dedicated temps” when you can bill out for their services at a fee much higher than what you pay them.

For example, if the “going wage” for cleaning help is 10.00 per hour in your town, why not run an ad on Craigs List:

“Make $20.00 per hour working in our fire restoration division as an “on-call” cleaning technician. Perfect for extra money and we offer flex-time scheduling. Call 237-0101 between 8 A.M and 10 A.M. for an orientation packet or go to our web site …”

Remember, don’t be afraid to pay a LOT more than your regular workers, Planning. You are carrying your full-time employees through thick and thin. You know, all the “make work” so your full-time people don’t go hungry when the calls don’t come in. But with your “On Call” folks you can be brutal. No work-no pay.

For a certain segment of the population this arrangement works great. We had On Call people stay with us for years which of course meant they were trained and motivated. Win-Win for all parties involved.


P.S. There are some potential problems with this approach, Planning.  One is your regular, full-time people will learn how much the On-Call employees are earning per hour and become jealous.  You also should check with your State Unemployment people on what happens if your On-Call employees file for unemployment.  There may be a way to structure it to avoid this situation and of course, it is always a good idea to get legal advice before starting something new like this. (Unemployment and temp workers is further discussed in another BHC response.)

2 thoughts on “How and where do I find temporary fire restoration workers?”

  1. I see the idea and it could work in some circumstances. The other things to remember are the work comp, payroll taxes and yes the possible unemployment. Also, if your taking the time and spending money to screen them, what does that cost to have your human resources dealing with that and payroll? The work comp risk alone could be pretty severe depending on your policy. The best idea is to find a local company that is not super large. The nation wide 600 office labor companies do not care about 1 smaller account! Its all numbers with them, no relationship. I own a small labor company in Colorado so every client is very important. We generally bill $15 and pay $9-10 depending on experience.
    The other MORE IMPORTANT thing to think about is that if you run into a situation where you need 100 guys, are you going to Craigslist that? Total nightmare. If you have established credit and good pay history with a labor company they will be able to get you started quick. If you have not set up and call the labor company, it will take a while to get approved for credit and you have no idea what your gonna get.
    Sit down with the manager or owner of the labor company up front so they can know your expectations. It will never be perfect but it can be effective.

    -Ryan Oldham
    Managing Partner
    Iron Man Labor
    (720) 525-5953
    Denver, Co

  2. Just another great idea to think about is using work release people. Most in our county are not ‘hard criminals’ they are actually hard workers, you do not have to pay out ‘double’ they are monitored by myself or my husband on the job or one of my full time supervisors and believe it or not, many are very skilled. They are not going to screw up because if they do guess what? They do not get to work or get out!!

    Now, in every situation does this work? NO I do NOT and I repeat NOT use them on my commercial cleaning accounts at night where there is little supervision and my clients are entrusting their entire corporations security in my hands NO WAY NOT EVER BUT on day jobs where I am doing restoration, mold remediation etc and supervision is on the entire job, you bet. Its a great option to consider. I used them for my hardwood floor refinishing work and it was a charm.

    I own btw 🙂

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