Recent Fire Damage Posts
How Smoke Damages A Home
A house fire can be devastating and is something no homeowner wants to experience. However, if a fire does occur in your home, professional fire clean up services are available to help you recover from the damage. It's important to know exactly how and where fire damage can impact your home before the clean up process begins, especially since some areas of your home may have smoke damage that's not visible.
Unexpected Issues from Fire and Smoke Damage
After a fire, it's usually evident what smoke damage looks like in your home - whether it's charred items, discolored walls, or ash and soot on the floor - but it can also produce smells and other side effects that are harmful to surfaces as well as your health. It's also important to note that some signs of smoke damage can occur immediately, while others are only apparent several hours - or even days - after the fire.
Shortly after a fire, the effects of smoke damage are visible on walls, ceilings and surfaces, appearing as stains and discoloration. Within a few days, walls and flooring may begin to turn yellow; however, this yellowing affect doesn't show right away. Plastic surfaces/appliances and wood can also become discolored and warped. Several hours after a fire, metal hardware can show signs of rust and corrosion. If you have countertops, tiles or other surfaces that contain porous stone such as marble, granite or travertine, they usually become permanently discolored from the acidic residue found in soot. This residue can also permanently tarnish metals.
Surfaces of your home, specifically fabric items, may not only show visible signs of fire damage, but also may contain a smoky odor. Smoke produces tiny particles of carbon in the air, and when deposited, these particles are called soot. Getting rid of the smoke residue, or soot, is the first step to reducing the smell of a fire.
Smoke is made up of several components, which contribute to the smell that lingers after fire damage.
- Particles - partially or completely burned substances that are sometimes toxic and can penetrate surfaces and fabrics.
- Vapors - misty, fog-like droplets that can be poisonous if inhaled or absorbed.
- Toxic gases - although it is odorless, carbon monoxide (CO), is the most common toxic gas that results from a fire. Phosgene is created when household products such as vinyl, plastics and other chemicals and solvents containing chlorine materials are burned. Hydrogen cyanide is a by-product from the combustion and burning of insulation, carpets, clothing, synthetics, and plastics, such as PVC pipe.
The smell of smoke gets trapped in clothing, carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture, and unless these items are properly cleaned and deodorized by a professional fire clean up service, they may retain the smoky smell for a long period of time. The source of the odor can oftentimes be difficult to pinpoint. It could be in the soot on a surface, in the pores of wood or saturated in the finish of a piece of furniture.
While smoke damage is visible on walls and ceilings, it can also permeate these surfaces and cause damage to a home's structure/framing, wall studs, insulation and air ducts in your ventilation system. When soot and smoke particles become trapped in the HVAC system, the smoke odor can reoccur periodically and even cause respiratory problems.
If any part of a home with wiring experiences fire damage, it usually means that the electrical system has been compromised, too. Depending on the source of the fire, any of the following electrical components may be damaged: wiring, cords, outlets, switches, fuses and breaker boxes. Appliances that have been affected by fire damage can show signs of corrosion, experience short circuits and malfunction, or fail completely.
No matter the level of destruction to your home, you should always consult licensed and trained industry professionals to access smoke or fire damage before you move forward with restoration and repairs.
Areas of a Home Commonly Affected by Fire Damage
The level of damage will vary depending on where a fire originated. An enclosed space typically will not have as much smoke damage as a large, open room with multiple appliances and a lot of wiring in the walls. Additionally, certain parts of a room may experience more damage than others.
Because hot air rises, the highest concentration of smoke residue is commonly found directly above where a fire started - usually on the ceiling above the point of origin. Nail heads in the ceiling (and walls) can also attract smoke particles, which appear as an outline of a ring around them.
When smoke particles are ionized - or have an electrical charge - they are attracted to certain surfaces. Smoke produced by burning plastic carries a stronger charge than smoke from wood, paper or cotton. This causes smoke residue to form in clusters that look like cobwebs in the corners of rooms where walls and ceilings meet.
Walls and Windows
Windows and exterior walls are usually cooler than the center of a room and because smoke naturally travels to areas with a lower temperature, it's common to find a lot of smoke residue on outside walls and even in spaces behind drapes and blinds, even more so than surrounding surfaces.
Once you and your family are safe, you'll need to contact a professional smoke and fire clean up service to assess the damage and advise you on the type of service(s) you'll need to remove any smoke damage. It's highly advised to seek smoke damage restoration within a few days of the fire to minimize the amount of repairs your home will need.
What To Do After Smoke Damage Has Happened?
Fire and smoke damage can be devastating to personal property and structures. Quick action is the only way to minimize the destruction. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, IICRC, is a globally recognized organization whose mission is to establish higher industry standards. As a referral source for consumers, IICRC certified firms are more likely to provide a faster, better service than non-certified competitors.
Restoration costs increase and damages escalate when the cleaning process is extended. By hastening the hiring process and using an IICRC certified technician, owners will be rewarded by having the damage stopped so repairs can begin.
What happens only minutes after the disaster?
Immediately after a fire, soot residue settles onto the property. Discoloration of porous materials is permanent, but other surfaces may be properly cleaned to remove the discoloration. Acidic soot begins staining other surfaces if not treated quickly.
Within hours all surfaces begin to suffer from fire and smoke damage. Wooden furniture may require refinishing. Metal begins to rust, pit and corrode. Painted walls begin to yellow. Clothing can become permanently stained. And finally, flooring may require refinishing or replacement.
If left untreated, within weeks the restoration process will take longer and cost more. Prolonged soot exposure permanently harms all surfaces and embeds in fibers. Replacement of property may be the best option at this point. The structure may continue deteriorating if not properly restored.
IICRC suggests the following steps after the incident:
- Remember safety comes first. Do not enter the property without proper work gloves and appropriate respiratory protection. Exposure to soot residue causes respiratory distress and other medical emergencies.
- Bring along a few box fans. Upon entering the property open the windows and place the box fans in the windows to force out the contaminated air and dust. Proper ventilation helps to prevent further smoke damage and reduces potential injury to people.
- Remove loose smoke contamination with a professional dry cleaning soot sponge.
- Clean every surface with soap and water. Begin at the top and work down to the floor. Be sure to get inside cabinets and cupboards.
- Using a high efficiency vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) Filter, vacuum upholstery and carpet. A good filtration system on a high efficiency vacuum prevents the soot from being blown back into the cleaned space. Clean or change the filter regularly.
- Launder bedding, clothes, curtains, and other washable materials. An alkaline cleaner neutralizes the acid found in the soot. Fine materials should be professionally dry-cleaned by a dry-cleaner who is experienced in smoke damaged articles.
- Clean the exterior walls and eaves using a water hose attached to the proper cleaner. Agitate and loosen stuck-on soot. The smoke damage to the outside of the property will continue until the soot is removed.
Though heavy residues require the assistance of professional restoration technicians, a certified technician may be contacted for any amount of smoke damage. Improper processes can further harm the property or belongings.
Why Immediate Fire Damage Restoration is So Important
When a fire occurs in a home, the aftermath can seem overwhelming, and if fire restoration is postponed, the destruction from smoke damage can become even worse. The longer you wait to address the damage, the more repairs you'll have to fix - which means you'll most likely have a larger bill for damages when all is said and done. You can avoid costly repairs and long-term issues if you make fire damage restoration a priority and follow the steps you'll need to get your home back to normal as soon as possible.
Contact a Fire Damage Restoration Service
First, and foremost - and this is the most important step - find a fire restoration contractor who can assess the damage, give you an estimate on costs and start the cleanup process. Contact your home insurance company to make them aware of the fire and ask them for referrals for reliable businesses in your area. It's essential that you enlist the help of a licensed and insured fire damage restoration company to reduce the risk of further damage to your home. They are trained to handle this type of damage and many will perform some of the following steps to help get you through the initial fire cleanup:
- Smoke and fire damage restoration services will try to save as many of your home and personal belongings (such as appliances, furniture and clothing) as they can.
- Document everything they remove from your home by taking pictures and/or keeping written records.
- Return any salvageable furniture and appliances back to your home, after the fire restoration is complete.
- Work quickly and carefully to get you back in your home as soon as possible, and stay in contact with you to make sure the repairs were done correctly and your home isn't experiencing any other problems.
Be sure to go through your home insurance company when hiring a fire damage restoration service, or do a thorough background check if you choose one on your own to make sure they are licensed and insured. Be wary of “fire chasing” contractors who target victims of house fires and pressure them into signing expensive repair contracts, perform extremely low-quality repair work and might not be licensed or insured.
Start Fire Cleanup Right Away
While it's best to have a qualified fire restoration company handle the smoke damage restoration, there are some small tasks you can do to help minimize the initial damage before the professionals come in to do the major cleanup. Remember that safety comes first, so if there’s no way to safely gain access into your home, then stay out until the professionals arrive. If it is possible to enter your house, make sure you’re wearing work gloves, long sleeves/pants, and proper respiratory protection, such as a mask because exposure to soot can cause respiratory problems and other medical issues.
- Ventilation - Open all the windows and air out the house as much (and as often) as possible. Use box fans to force out dust and contaminated air. Fire damage restoration professionals will use industrial-strength fans and other air-moving equipment to help reduce the smoke damage your home has been subjected to, but in the meantime, proper ventilation is key to helping remove a lot of the polluted (and unsafe) air.
- Cleaning - Scrub all surfaces (and inside cabinets and drawers) with soap and water. You can also use an alkaline cleaner, which neutralizes the acid that’s found in soot to help cut down on the smoky smell. Counteractants—chemicals used to break up smoke molecules to eliminate odors—may be used, but it’s best left to the professionals to handle such products.
- Laundry - Wash all bedding, clothing, curtains and items that can be machine washed with an alkaline cleaner (you may have to wash items more than once). Delicate fabrics will need to be professionally dry cleaned by someone who is familiar with articles that have smoke damage. Only use washers and dryers that haven’t been exposed to smoke or experienced significant fire damage.
Professional smoke removal and restoration companies will perform a thorough cleanup using industrial-grade products and equipment, such as dry cleaning soot sponges to remove loose soot and specialized vacuum filters to clean carpet and upholstery.
Prolonged Smoke Damage
Fire damage is tricky because some signs are apparent—such as discoloration on walls and ceilings and dark stains from smoke on surfaces—but others are not, such as odors trapped in hidden places. Air conditioner vents, the space behind walls and the outside walls of your home are all areas where ash and soot can be deposited and continue to cause damage if they aren't taken care of in a timely manner.
Make sure to have the HVAC system, attic/roof, and exterior walls inspected and properly cleaned, too, because your home will continue to suffer from smoke damage until the soot is completely removed by a fire damage restoration service.
Fire And Smoke Damage Do's And Don'ts
SERVPRO of Marysville/Arlington is your stop for Fire & Smoke damage cleanup and restoration. We have been operating for over 40 years and have extensive knowledge and expertise in the Fire & Smoke damage cleanup industry.
Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from being embedded into upholstery and carpet.
Keep hands clean. Soot on hands can further soil upholstery, walls and woodwork.
Place dry, colorfast towels or old linens on rugs, upholstery and carpet traffic areas.
Do not attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces with our fist contacting your SERVPRO of Marysville/Arlington Professional.
Do not attempt to clean any electrical appliances, TV sets, radios, etc. that have been close to fire, heat or water with out first consulting an authorized repair service person.
Do not consume any canned or packaged food, beverages or medications that may have been stored close to fire, heat or water. (They may be contaminated)
If you're home suffers a fire or smoke damage be sure to call SERVPRO of Marysville/Arlington and as always is "Here to Help."
Understanding The Behavior Of Smoke
There are two different types of smoke--wet and dry. As a result, there are different types of soot residue after a fire. SERVPRO technicians are trained in fire cleanup and restoration, and know the different types of smoke and its behavior patterns. Knowing this information is vital to proper restoration. Before restoration begins, the technicians will survey the loss to determine the extent of impact from fire, smoke, heat, and moisture on the building materials and contents. The soot will then be tested to determine which type of smoke damage occurred. Pretesting determines the proper cleaning method and allows us to focus on your precious items.
Smoke can penetrate various cavities within the structure, causing hidden damage and odor. Our knowledge of building systems helps us to investigate how far smoke damage may have spread. The following are additional facts you may not know about smoke.
- Hot smoke migrates to cooler areas and upper levels of a structure.
- Smoke flows around plumbing systems, seeping through the holes used by pipes to go from floor to floor.
- The type of smoke may greatly affect the restoration process.
Different Types of Smoke
Wet Smoke (Plastic and Rubber) Low heat, smoldering, pungent odor, sticky, smeary. Smoke webs are more difficult to clean.
Dry Smoke (Paper and Wood) Fast burning, high temperatures, heat rises therefore smoke dries.
Protein Fire Residue (Produced by evaporation of material rather than from a fire) Virtually invisible, discolors paints and varnishes, extreme pungent odor.
Fuel Oil Soot (Furnace Puff Backs) While "puff backs" can create havoc for homeowners, SERVPRO technicians can, in most cases restore the contents and structure quickly.
Other Types (Tear gas, fingerprint powder, and fire extinguisher residue) Special loss situations require special care.
Our technicians are trained to handle even the toughest losses. And make any smoke disaster "Like it never even happened."
Fire Escape Planning For Your Business
An emergency escape plan is not required for all businesses, however, OSHA recommends building an emergency action plan to protect yourself, your employees, and your business during an emergency. OSHA suggests the following steps when developing a plan.
Organize an Emergency Preparedness Procedures review with employees to review your company's emergency plans. You may wish to select an individual or team of individuals to lead and coordinate your emergency plan.
Once a plan is developed, post evacuation procedures, including routes and exits, where they are easily accessible to all employees. Ensure all exits and routes are clearly marked, and will lit, wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel, and unobstructed and clear of debris at all times.
Conduct office evacuation exercises and drills. Designate a safe spot outside of the facility where employees can regroup, recover and conduct a head count. Once completed, evaluate how well the plan worked and if additional training or exercises are needed.
Fire Damage Emergency Tips
After any fire damage situation, your primary focus should be safety:
- Is it safe to stay in the house?
- Electrical and "slip and fall" hazards are some of the most prevalent concerns.
- Only do activities that are safe for you to perform.
- Wet materials can be VERY heavy. Be careful!
Have A Fire or Smoke Damage Emergency?
What To Do After A Fire
- Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from being embedded into upholstery and carpets.
- Keep hands clean so as not to further soil upholstery, walls and woodwork.
- Place clean towels or old linens on rugs, upholstery and carpet traffic areas.
- If electricity is off, empty freezer and refrigerator and prop doors open.
- Clean and protect chrome with light coating of petroleum jelly or oil.
- Wash houseplants on both sides of leaves.
- Change HVAC filter.
- Tape double layers of cheesecloth over air registers.
What NOT To Do After A Fire
- Don't attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces or shampoo carpet or upholstery without contacting your SERVPRO Franchise Professional.
- Don't attempt to clean any electrical appliances that may have been close to fire, heat or water without consulting an authorized repair service.
- Don't use any canned or packaged food or beverages that may have been stored near the fire, heat or water.
- Don't turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet. The wiring may be damaged.
- Don't send garments to an ordinary dry cleaner. Improper cleaning may set smoke odor.
Fire Damage And Restoration
Fires can be especially devastating to your home or business. After the fire trucks leave, your property will suffer from not only fire and smoke damage, but also widespread water damage and flooding from firefighting efforts. SERVPRO Franchise Professionals have specialized fire and water damage restoration training and experience to quickly clean up and restore your home to pre-fire condition. They also can remove the pervasive smoke odor and deep-clean soot from upholstery and carpet.
Please refer to our Fire Damage Tips - Until Help Arrives Guide and follow these tips to protect yourself and your property.
SERVPRO Franchise Professionals
Fire, Smoke, or Soot Damage? Call Today 1-800-SERVPRO
Why Choose SERVPRO Franchise Professionals?
They’re Faster to Any Size Disaster
SERVPRO Franchise Professionals are dedicated to responding immediately when you need help with a fire or water damage event. A fast response lessens the damage, limits further damage, and reduces cost.
They’re Fire and Water Damage Specialists
They specialize in fire and water damage restoration, the cornerstone of our business. SERVPRO Franchise Professionals have extensive training and equipment to get your property back to pre-fire condition.
- Fire & Smoke Restoration Technician
- Odor Control Technician
- Upholstery & Fabric Cleaning Technician
- Water Damage Restoration Technician
They Have a Restore vs. Replace Mentality
SERVPRO Franchise Professionals clean and restore your property using specialized equipment and cleaning techniques. Their “restore first” mentality reduces interruption and gets you back to your life.
The Fire Damage Restoration Process
SERVPRO Franchise Professionals know just how devastating a fire can be. Fire and water damage can leave your house unsafe and unlivable. They’re trained to clean and restore your home with as little disruption as possible. Learn more about the fire damage restoration process.
Step1: Emergency Contact
Step 2: Inspection and Fire Damage Assessment
Step 3: Immediate Board-Up and Roof Tarp Service (if needed)
Step 4: Water Removal and Drying (if water damage is present)
Step 5: Removal of Smoke and Soot from All Surfaces
Step 6: Cleaning and Repair
Step 7: Restoration
Why Professionals Should Clean Smoke Damage From A Fire
When the firefighters leave, it may seem like the danger has passed and the home is safe from further destruction, but without professionals to help clean the smoke damage, the building will never return to normal. While the principles behind fire restoration are fairly simple, it requires a lot of experience and manpower to perform adequately, and this means that it shouldn’t be attempted by a homeowner on his or her own.
While fire is always the immediate danger, once it is gone, what it leaves behind will continue to affect the house. Ash and smoke, if left unhindered, will cause extensive corrosion, etching and discoloration, not to mention lingering powerful odors. Professionals that clean fire and smoke damage can stop this before it becomes a major problem, assuming they are contacted soon enough. There are many companies out there that advertise their ability to restore areas affected by fire, but only those with proper training and certification should be considered. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is the main oversight agency in this industry. The IICRC requires its registrants to take extensive coursework before earning their certification. This is a symbol of excellence, and those that uphold the standards that have been set can be contacted through the IICRC.
These professionals can clean smoke damage and restore items affected by a fire, but they must be brought to the site as soon as possible to halt the ongoing issues that ash residue can cause. The first thing that ash does to the home is discolor most surfaces. Anything that is made of plastic or was close to the fire will start discoloring within minutes, and within several hours, fiberglass and finishes on appliances will begin to yellow. Metals may also tarnish. After a few days pass, the ash will cause walls to discolor permanently, along with clothing and upholstery. Wood and vinyl will need to be refinished or replaced, and metal will start corroding.
If a professional isn’t hired to clean smoke and fire damage, the costs for restoration will skyrocket after a few weeks. Metals may need to be replaced, carpet will permanently discolor and glass may be severely etched, which will necessitate replacement. It will also become apparent that the odors caused by the disaster may still be present and intense enough to be distracting. Because ash is acidic, the longer it takes to hire experts, the more destruction it will cause.
The first thing a trained, certified, professional company will do when on site is to identify all affected materials and the source of any odors. The only way to properly clean smoke and fire damage is to be extremely thorough. Ash residue is easily disturbed and can spread through the building with ease, causing nearly everything to need restoration. The experts will identify what can and cannot be salvaged, and will remove any built-up ash residue that is coating surfaces. Over time, ash builds up in layers, and may eventually form into a lacquer-like consistency. Once this is done, the restorers will locate the source of the odor, and treat it with specialized detergents that are formulated for neutralizing this kind of odor. Once materials are treated, they may be sealed off to prevent any further odor from permeating the air in the future.
This entire process is very detailed, and hiring a professional that can be trusted to do the job right is imperative