Pool Industry rallies behind service tech
Wildfires are raging again in California, destroying homes and the lives of hundreds of people in its path. One of these people, Dawn Stevens, is an independent swimming pool service tech in Northern California who spent seven years building her home and ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
When the fires approached her home, Stevens grabbed what she could, focusing on items of personal significance. She then set up large water tanks and tried to make the land more maneuverable for fire trucks, thinking the flames might be stopped before they reached her property.
But the fire was unstoppable and everything, including her home, barn and shop were destroyed in what has become known as the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.
On Aug. 18, 2020, Stevens received a phone call from neighbors down the road while she was eating dinner. They repeatedly told her to “get out now”. Then she received a reverse 911 call also telling her to evacuate. As she tried to get to a safe distance, she saw a neighbor’s home who lives on the same road. His property was already on fire, but the firefighters managed to reach his home and put out the flames. Stevens also said the firefighters saved four nearby homes, but not hers.
“They put out the flames at his place and saved five homes out of about 12, and that was it,” said Stevens. “Out of 300 structures in the area they saved only five homes, and they were the multimillion dollar homes. My house is worth more than a half million, but not anymore, of course.”
As the fire spread, Stevens was told the fire department would not be going back to the area to protect her house.
“They left us to burn,” she said.
Stevens’ neighbor Ted Jones died in the fire, and her other neighbor Pat Kelly survived by jumping in a lake and breathing through a PVC pipe for three hours. Stevens wasn’t injured, but her 12 acre property was a total loss. She is currently staying at her son’s cabin. Her loss has been financially devastating; she was unable to obtain fire insurance because her property is located in a highrisk fire zone.
In addition to losing her home, Stevens lost the supplies, chemicals and equipment she used in her pool servicing business. “I even lost my test strips. Many people have asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ I really didn’t have an answer”.
It wasn’t long, however, until Stevens received help. Dawn Stevens has been a member of the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA) for over 30 years. She initially called Ray Arouesty, the insurance broker for IPSSA. IPSSA’s members obtain business liability insurance and other benefits through the association, but according to Arouesty, not coverage for a fire loss like Stevens incurred.
Fortunately, IPSSA has a long history of helping members in need. For example, through its Sick Route Plan, if members are sick, injured or otherwise unable to work, other members maintain the sick member’s business. They help by cleaning their pools and doing what is necessary to keep the business afloat. So it was natural for Joe Lukacik to get involved when he heard of Stevens’ plight.
Lukacik, a long-time member of IPSSA’s San Diego East County Chapter, immediately began contacting other members from IPSSA’s San Diego region and quickly raised over $3,000 to help support Stevens. The pool industry has stepped up as well -- both PoolCorp. Inc. and Hasa Pool Care Products Inc., have promised Stevens everything she needs to continue working.
Lukacik has never met Stevens before, but was touched by her story. “She is has been an IPSSA member for a very long time and she’s garnered a good deal of respect among her peers. It struck a nerve with me,” said Lukacik. “This gal lost her husband a few years ago, lost her house, lost her barn, lost her animals, lost her tractor and she doesn’t have a lot of money. It’s fitting that IPSSA and the industry do what they can to help her.”
Lukacik plans on continuing to try to find new sources of money for Stevens, stating he is going to solicit help from swimming pool industry trade shows. He also wants IPSSA to send an email to all of its’ members to solicit individual donations to help Stevens.
The ultimate goal, according to Lukacik, is to raise enough money to fund a modular home for her. Please help raise money for Dawn by visiting the Go Fund Me page set up by her friend Morgan Corona at the following address, https://gf.me/u/ytuvqy.
Dawn Stevens at her property in Davenport, California.
Dawn’s truck after the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, August 18, 2020.
Dawn and volunteers sifting through ash looking for any valuables.