Jerry Wallace, president of the Sacramento based Swim Chem, and Mario Esparza, owner of Vacaville Pools, need to find a balance between increased business and protecting their employees as a result of the LNU Lightning Complex fires. These two business owners are busier than ever but their employees are at risk breathing the smoky air.
Despite the fires, Wallace’s employees in the Vacaville, Fairfield and Winters areas were able to clean most of the pools on their routes. If certain pools could not be reached because of the danger the fires posed, they would wait until it was safe, typically only one to two days. On one occasion the employees were escorted by police to the pools they needed to clean.
“I think we had about 20 pools that the police wouldn’t let us clean. In one area the Vacaville PD escorted us in, and we were able to do about a half dozen pools. But then there are other areas where they just flat told us “no, you can’t go in there,’” said Wallace.
Wallace only lost two accounts, both in the city of Vacaville, after customers’ homes burned down. Wallace thought he might have lost as many as 30 accounts because of the severity of the fires.
“Actually we were surprised. Based on the maps, and the chatter on the radio, and the scanners, we were just anticipating that we were going to lose 25 to 30 pools — or homes that had pools — and we ended up only losing the two,” said Wallace.
Aside from making it more difficult to travel, the fires increased the frequency the pools needed to be cleaned. Ash from the fires made its way into pools, increasing business despite the danger. Esparza said he could not afford to take on any new accounts because he does not have enough workers for them.
The presence of ash also meant they had greater difficulty staying safe. The employees who already wore masks because of Covid-19 needed to upgrade to the more effective N-95 masks, which are in short supply.
Both Esparza and Wallace are trying to find solutions to equip their employees with enough masks sufficient to perform the increased cleaning.
“The N-95 mask is the preferred mask but they are in short supply with Covid,” said Wallace. “So that’s a problem. You know, we’re just dealing the best we can when we’re out of the N-95s by substituting the best mask we can find.”