Recent Fire Damage Posts
How To Clean Smoke Damage From Your Home
Dealing with the aftermath of smoke or fire damage in your home is an overwhelming endeavor. Paint peels and chips away, thick oily residue clings to the walls like permanent marker and there seems to be a layer of film on everything.
While cleaning up a smoke-damaged home is a nightmare, there are some crucial steps to take to minimize the cost and energy spent cleaning up. The more prepared you are for what’s ahead, the better plan of action you can take.
Here are the steps you should take when repairing smoke and fire damage:
Assess The Situation
First and foremost, take a good look at the walls and ceiling to see if the damage goes beyond something you can handle. Check for any underlying issues that could cause problems for you in the future. Assess what you can save, what you need to discard and if you need to hire a professional.
In some cases, you won’t necessarily know if you need to bring in professional help. Try reaching out to your insurance provider and ask for suggestions about your next steps. Your insurance provider may be able to point you in the right direction and connect you with a professional. If they don’t have a point of contact, consider reaching out to a professional fire restorer.
You can find your local professional on a website like Angie’s List or by merely googling “fire and water damage restoration.” Contact a few fire restorers in your area to get quotes and to help you assess your situation. These experts can help you determine what you may be able to accomplish on your own and what will require their services.
Of course, hiring a professional is costly, but it’s the best way to remove smoke and soot from your property. Since they have the appropriate tools and gear, they can clean your home thoroughly. However, there may be some areas that aren’t as damaged, and you can tackle those alone.
Gather Your Supplies
Once you determine the areas of damage you’re ready to take on, you’ll need to gather some supplies. Just as drastic times call for drastic measures, so goes your approach in cleaning up that pesky soot. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is a good way to get through that tough grime on your walls and ceiling, and you can buy it at your local hardware store. However, you will need to take some precautions because it can irritate your eyes and skin. Since TSP is so strong, you’ll want to dilute it with some water. Be sure to wear long gloves, a mask and goggles while scrubbing.
Here’s an essential list of some items you can begin to collect:
- Safety goggles to protect your eyes
- Gloves to protect your skin
- Terrycloth towel to wipe down the furniture
- Grade #0000 steel wool to deep clean furniture if a terrycloth won’t do the job
- Cloth for polishing your furniture
- Drop cloth to protect the furniture once it’s clean
- Vacuum for cleaning up excess debris
- Chemical sponge
- TSP solution for cleaning walls, masonry, roofs and grout
Before you begin cleaning with harsh chemicals, make sure to protect the unharmed areas with drop cloths. You will also want to protect your entire body by wearing long sleeves, pants and closed-toe shoes.
Now that you have protected yourself and the unharmed areas, you can begin working.
How To Remove Smoke Damage From Furniture
If your furniture is salvageable, start by wiping all wood surfaces with a dry chemical sponge to remove the soot. However, don’t scrub too hard because you don’t want to grind the smoke participles deeper into the wood grain. Then, lightly wipe down all wood surfaces with a cotton cloth using a ¼ cup oil soap solution (or wood cleaner) in a gallon of warm water.
You may need to use a grade #0000 steel wool to remove the tough soot from the wood. Once you properly remove the soot, you can wipe the furniture down with a damp cloth and let it air dry.
How To Remove Smoke Damage From Textiles
Before you can remove the smoke smell from your textiles and carpet, you will need to remove the soot. If you don’t hire a professional to clean the soot, use a vacuum to clean the areas. Stay away from brush attachments because they tend to force extra dirt and soot into the fibers of the material.
Once you remove the soot, you can now deodorize the areas affected. Professional fire restorers and some dry-cleaning companies use an ozone treatment technique to remove the smell of smoke from your textiles. This treatment forces the breakdown of smoke molecules and eliminates the odor. Because household products may only temporarily remove the smell, it may be best to hire a professional.
How To Remove The Smell From Your Walls
Give the walls and ceiling a quick wipe down to get rid of any easily removable surface residue. Then, dissolve one tablespoon of TSP per one gallon of warm water. Again, be sure you have rubber gloves, a face mask and goggles on. Then, you can use the sponge to wipe down the damaged areas small sections at a time.
After you use the cleaner, you will need to go over the walls again with water to rinse it away. If you have drywall, be careful not to oversaturate with water since this can damage the wall and encourage the growth of mold. You’ll also need to repair damages as required, such as chipped and peeling paint or bubbled wallpaper. If you have wallpaper, you may even need to remove it and repaper.
Jennifer Okhovat, Residential and Commercial Realtor at realty company Compass, stated, “If you’re cleaning up your home after smoke or fire damage, don’t forget to put a fresh coat of paint. The smell of smoke (even if you can’t smell it) will exist in walls and paint.”
Hire A Professional For The Rest
For heavy soot or smoke damage from a fire, call a professional. The process of cleaning walls and furniture, as well as deodorizing, is hard, complex and best left to experienced professionals.
Ben Mizes, Licensed Realtor and the CEO/Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, suggested, “While the techniques above are effective, your best bet is to hire a professional to deep clean your home. By the time you invest in all of the supplies needed and spend your own time trying to clean the damage, it may have been worth investing in professional help.”
So, before you start scrubbing your home from top to bottom, consider bringing in the big guns to do the dirty work for you. You may find that you’re happier with the result.
How To Prevent Future Fire Damage
The key to protecting your home from a house fire is prevention. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top causes of fires in homes include candles, cooking, electric, heating and smoking devices. Seeing as how these causes are very preventable, protecting our homes is in our control.
Here are a few things to consider when preventing your home from becoming a fire victim:
- Test all of your smoke alarms and replace batteries as necessary.
- Don’t place flammable items near or around your stove or oven.
- Don’t leave the kitchen unattended when cooking.
- Change heating filters regularly.
- Inspect space heaters after use.
- Have your dryer inspected once a year.
- Check the condition of cords.
- Store flammable products very carefully.
- Don’t leave candles unattended.
- Use fireplace responsibly.
- Keep fire extinguishers handy.
The Bottom Line
Repairing your home after smoke damage can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. Before taking on this endeavor, be sure to assess the situation and prepare for the project. But if you’re at all in doubt, Call SERVPRO of Conyers today at 770-483-1212
*Courtesy of https://www.quickenloans.com/blog/clean-smoke-damage-home
Emergency Fire Damage Tips
These emergency tips will assist you in taking proper action until SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington professionals arrive. Follow these DOs and DON’Ts to help reduce damage and increase the chances of a successful restoration.
- Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from being embedded into carpet and avoid tracking.
- Keep hands clean. Soot on hands can further soil upholstery, walls and woodwork.
- If electricity is off, empty freezer and refrigerator completely and prop doors open to help prevent odor.
- Wipe soot from metal kitchen and bathroom faucets, trim and appliances.
- If heat is off during winter, pour RV antifreeze in sinks, toilet bowls, holding tanks and tubs to avoid freezing pipes and fixtures.
- Remove soot particles from plants with a damp cloth.
- Change HVAC filter, but leave system off until a trained professional can check the system.
- Tape double layers of cheesecloth over air registers to stop particles of soot from getting in or out of the HVAC system.
- Don’t attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces without first contacting SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington.
- Don’t attempt to shampoo carpet, rugs or upholstered furniture without first consulting SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington.
- Don’t attempt to clean any electrical appliances (TV sets, radios, etc.) that may have been close to fire, heat or water without first consulting an authorized repair service.
- Don’t consume any food or beverages that may have been stored close to fire, heat or water. (They may be contaminated.)
- Don’t turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet. Wiring may be wet or damaged and cause electrical shock and air movement may create secondary damage.
- Don’t send garments to the dry cleaner. Improper cleaning may set in smoke odor.
When fire and water damage take control of your life, SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington will help you take it back.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 2
Portable fire extinguishers can be life and property saving tools when used correctly. In order to operate an extinguisher, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests remembering the word PASS:
- Pull the pin. Hold the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
Read the instructions on the fire extinguisher and become familiar with them before a fire breaks out. Remember, extinguishers do have limitations. It is also important to ensure you have the correct type of extinguisher for your facility. To find more information on choosing the appropriate class of extinguisher, please visit the NFPA website at nfpa.org.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 2
Checklist for next steps after a fire
Regardless of whether you own the structure, the first thing to do after a fire is to protect yourself from additional losses. Here are the steps to follow after a fire in your home: If you are a home owner, it is your responsibility to cover holes to protect against the weather and unlawful entry. Your insurance company may handle this item at your request. Outside doors and windows to your home should be locked or secured. If you are a tenant, contact the owner. It is the owner’s responsibility to prevent further loss to the property. Once the fire is extinguished, the Fire Marshal or Code Services will notify you when, or if, your home is safe to enter. If you cannot resume living in the residence, remove items that can be salvaged such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, personal identification, credit cards, bank books, important documents, jewelry and additional valuables, untainted medicine, and other necessary things. Should a firefighter or fire investigator be on the scene, they will accompany you for your safety. Make a list of belongings removed and give a copy to your insurance representative. Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the Red Cross. They will help you find a place to stay for a while and find food, medicines, and other important things. If you have insurance, contact your insurance company. Ask what you should do to keep your home safe until it is repaired. Find out how they want you to make a list of things that were lost or damaged in the fire. Ask who you should talk to about cleaning up the mess. If you are not insured, try contacting community groups for aid and assistance. Check with the fire department to make sure your home is safe to enter. Be very careful when you go inside. Floors and walls may not be as safe as they look. The fire department will tell you if your utilities (water, electricity, and gas) are safe to use. If not, they will shut these off before they leave. DO NOT try to turn them back on by yourself. This could be very dangerous. Get instructions from Code Services on when and how you can have your utilities turned back on. In winter, if you cannot return to the home, have the water lines drained. Contact your landlord or mortgage company about the fire. Try to find valuable documents and records. See the information in this brochure about how to get new copies if you need them. If you leave your home, call the local police department to let them know the site will be vacant. Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and to prove any losses claimed on your income tax. 3 Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss. Notify the Postal Service to hold your mail. While mail can be forwarded to a temporary address for up to six months, the process of substituting your permanent address for where you will be living and then changing it back later is actually easier. Forward your telephone number to your new address. This is very helpful when insurance companies, the American Red Cross, contractors, and others are trying to reach you. Cancel or modify all regularly scheduled deliveries (e.g. newspapers) and cable service. Contact the Police Department or Sheriff Department depending on where you live. Explain the situation and request a heightened patrol presence on your street. Notify your employer. Some businesses are flexible in allowing you daytime availability to deal with firerelated matters. If you have school-age children, advise their schools; especially if this will affect their attendance. After a fire occurs, do not assume that your pet had escaped unhurt just because it looks all right. Smoke can damage the lungs of your pet in minutes, and sparks can cause painful burns that will stay hidden under fur. As soon as possible, take your pet to a veterinarian. If your pet has become lost in the confusion, retrieving it may be possible by contacting Animal Control. Immediately begin keeping receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important for showing your insurance company the money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your Federal income tax. As with other stresses in life, most people are able to cope quite well. Think of the aftermath’s effects as being a strain. When we injure our bodies, we can recognize that we need to ease up on ourselves and to take things easy for a while. Disasters can damage us psychologically, but it is often hard to know this is happening, especially if your home was damaged by the tragedy or if there was an injury or death of someone close to you. You need to be sure you recognize this and be kind to yourself. There may be other reactions. If you are feeling some of these things, we recommend the following: Be patient and considerate of yourself for the next few weeks. Recovering from the physical and psychological effects of a house fire takes time. Try to take time out to relax and do things you enjoy. Talk it out. Share your experiences and feelings with someone else. Family, friends, coworkers, ministers, and counselors are possible listeners. This can be a vital part of the recovery process. If you or your family members need support, call the American Red Cross at 785-537-2180 or check the phone book under Counseling-Personal & Family. Some employers and/or health insurance carriers provide coverage for counseling services. Parents should pay close attention to their children during this time. Parents tend to overlook the emotional needs of the child once they are relieved that nothing “serious” has happened to members of their family. They may be surprised about the persistence of the child’s fears. Parents may even begin to feel resentment if the child’s behavior disrupts or interferes with the daily routine of the family. Children need time to heal from traumatic events. Studies of children following disasters have shown that they may exhibit changes in behavior for months, or even a year or two, but should diminish over time. Except for extreme circumstances (when a family member is killed or severely injured, or the child was in the fire and hurt or traumatized), most children do not develop serious or permanent psychological problems. Therefore, it is important to note that many children express their fears and anxiety by reverting to the behavior of a much younger child by bed-wetting, thumb sucking, whining, fighting, sleep disturbances, or clinging to their parents. They might be afraid to be alone, especially at night. Most will be afraid that a fire will happen again in their home. Help your children cope by showing them that you have taken every safety precaution to ensure a fire will not happen again. Go on a hunt for home hazards together and show them how you’re being safe in your home. Show them the smoke alarms (have them test the alarms) and practice a fire drill. Take time to comfort and reassure your children. Get back into a routine as soon as possible—meal times, birthday celebrations, family times. Accept your children’s fears as real. Be a good listener and supporter. Your child’s school and his or her teacher should be aware of your situation. If school personnel know your child is going through a hard time, they may be able to help.
*Courtesy of https://www.lincolncounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/7724
How Long Can Victims Survive in a Fire?
In 2007, the United States suffered 118 firefighter line-of-duty-deaths (LODDs), 47 of which occurred in structure fires; two civilians were killed in those same fires. In 2008, there were 114 LODDs; 31 occurred in structural fires; three civilians were killed. In 2009, there were 89 LODDs, 24 in structural fires, and zero civilians were killed in those same fires.1
In my article “Survivability Profiling: Are the Victims Savable?” (Fire Engineering, December 2009), I defined survivability profiling as the art of examining a situation and making an intelligent and informed decision based on known events, or circumstances, to determine if civilians can survive existing fire and smoke conditions and to determine whether to commit firefighters to life-saving and interior operations. Based on the likelihood of civilian survivability, this concept goes beyond the tendency to justify risk whenever we respond to an occupied structure fire.
Survivability profiling asks—if people are suspected or known to be trapped—is there a reasonable assumption that they may still be alive? If not, we should slow down and attack the fire first and complete the searches when it is relatively safe for our operating forces to do so. Some will argue that using survivability profiling will kill people. No, fires and smoke kill people (many times before we even arrive on the scene). Survivability profiling will save firefighters’ lives.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that the upper limit of human temperature tenability is 212°F, well below temperatures found in most significant structure fires that are beyond the growth (incipient) stage. In today’s fire environments, temperatures higher than 500°F can be easily obtained within three to four minutes. Flashover, which occurs at approximately 1,100°F, can develop well under five minutes.2 If a space isn’t tenable for firefighters, trapped victims aren’t likely to survive either. Take the time to make it safe and prevent your firefighters from taking unnecessary risks.
Scientific research on human respiratory burns3 and inhalation of hot gases in the early stages of fire4 reveals that occupants trapped in structural fires have limited survival times. In the first experiment, which lasted 11 years, fire victims were tracked if they met three diagnosed criteria: (1) flame burns involving the face, particularly the mouth and nose; (2) singed nasal mucus membranes; and (3) burns sustained in closed-space, interior fires.
Twenty-seven patients were treated; 11 additional patients didn’t meet all three of the test criteria or were dead on arrival. Of the 27 patients whose body surface burns ranged from 15 percent to 98 percent, 24 died (three in the first 24 hours and five within 36 hours). Respiratory burns directly accounted for 18 of those deaths (the others died of other burn injury complications). Factors that affected the fatalities included heat, toxic smoke, and humidity. (3)
Sixty percent of the victims were found to have been exposed to heat (most at temperatures above 200°F; some were below) and humidity for six to seven minutes (remote from the fire area). The fatality rate increased to 90 percent for those exposed to toxic smoke as well, even for only several minutes. The experiment concluded that human fire victims were most susceptible to respiratory burns from heat first, toxic smoke second, and humidity a distant third (victims found remote from the fire area died of smoke first and heat second, with heavy smoke conditions leading to immediate respiratory burn injuries). The time of exposure for all 24 fatalities was less than 10 minutes. (3)
The second experiment (using laboratory mice and human fire victims) (4) assessed the impact of inhaling hot gases during the early stages of fires. The researchers concluded: “Thermal injury takes place quickly,” with death occurring at temperatures of 350°F within three minutes. The experiment notes that fire temperatures rise to more than 1,200°F within five minutes; therefore, the survival outcomes for victims are further limited. (4)
Lethal first-degree respiratory burns were found to occur in just 230 seconds (under four minutes). The experiment concluded that facing the fire causes more serious damage to the human respiratory tract, especially if the subject could not get away from the immediate fire area. It found that decreasing air velocity while increasing respiratory rates was helpful in minimizing thermal injuries of the respiratory tract. However, the experiment acknowledges that educating the public on this particular finding, coupled with the psychological and physiological reactions of civilians in fire situations, probably makes this conclusion unrealistic in helping to save lives.
The clinicians found that it would be helpful to know the time that the patient was subjected to fire and smoke, along with the approximate temperatures encountered. This might be helpful in establishing an appropriate treatment protocol. Providing this information for firefighters may prove difficult to impossible, but perhaps noting the victim’s location in relation to the proximity of the fire would be helpful.
Based on the work of Klaene and Sanders,5 from a size-up point of view, you must carefully consider the potential benefit to life and property vs. the risk to firefighters, as the risks generally increase with time. The benefit to civilian occupants tends to decrease exponentially with time unless the fire is controlled quickly. As the probability of saving lives and property decreases, the degree of acceptable risk should also decrease.
*Courtesy of https://www.fireengineering.com/2010/07/01/302841/survivability-profiling-how-long-can-victims-survive-in-a-fire-2/#gref
Home Fire Preparedness
The 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire
Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Purchase smoke alarms here.
Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.
Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.
Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.
Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.
Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.
*Courtesy of https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/home-fire-preparedness.html
How to Escape from a Second Story Fire
Plan a fire escape and practice fire escape drills with your family, in preparation for a possible emergency. Fire escape ladders are available, relatively inexpensively, that can be hung out the window of a two story home, and are safer than the sheet method mentioned below. The "First Alert 2-story Escape Ladder" is only about $35.00 brand new from Walmart or other retailer.
Place a few fire extinguishers throughout the house. However, fire extinguishers should be calibrated on a regular schedule per the instructions that come with the extinguisher.
Immediately close the door and stuff a blanket/towel along the bottom so that the smoke can not get through.
If you have a phone near you, then call the fire emergency service, or if you don't then run to the window and shout "Help!"
Stay low on the floor for better air. There is more smoke higher up.
Get two sheets and tie them together as quickly but as tightly as possible
Push your bed against the wall next to the window and tie one end of the two sheets.
Lower yourself down the building using the sheets.
When you get down on the ground immediately inform emergency services.
*Courtesy of: https://www.wikihow.com/Escape-from-a-Second-Story-Fire
Destroy Odors with Deodorizations
Even a small fire can cause odors for years to come if the affected areas are not properly cleaned and deodorized. Fire, smoke and soot damage in your home or business can create unpleasant and potentially permanent problems.
As various materials burn, the smoke produced travels throughout the structure, leaving odorous residues and deposits on surfaces and in hard-to-reach places. Unless fast, professional action is taken, these residues and deposits can cause permanent damage to contents and may result in resurfacing odors.
With technicians certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington professionals provide specialized services that can rid your home or business of offensive odors left by fire or smoke damage. SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington professionals do not cover up lingering odors with a fragrance; they seek out and remove the source of the odor. Once the source is found, SERVPRO’s own proprietary line of cleaning products is used to treat and prevent the odor from returning. Any restorable item in affected areas will also be professionally cleaned and deodorized, including furniture, draperies and upholstery, electronics, art, flooring, walls, ceilings, HVAC air ducts and more.
Ask SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington to explain the various deodorization methods available and which will work best for you.
If you or a customer suffer a fire damage or some other accident and require deodorization services, contact SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington. Whether it’s fire, water, or mold damage or just a stubborn odor that refuses to go away, we’ll help make it “Like it never even happened.”
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 4
Smoke Damage Cleaning
Smoke damage cleaning is, perhaps, the most complicated form of treatment for a homeowner to accomplish themselves. Not only does it take a thorough approach and deep remediation of nearly every surface in the building, it can only be done effectively if the areas behind the building’s walls receive treatment as well. This is a massive challenge to anyone but certified professionals, as these experts have the know-how, manpower and equipment to complete the task properly. SERVPRO of Conyers/Covington is your local expert in smoke damage cleaning and restoration.
Once the fire dies out, the problem is only beginning. Soot and smoke have a tendency to get everywhere, and these particles are so small that they can pass through walls effortlessly. They will also cake onto furniture, countertops, floors and walls if not dealt with right away, causing discoloration and overpowering odors. Smoke damage cleaning has to address both issues to be completely effective.
The professionals at SERVPRO of Conyers/Covington are certified through the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and have the expertise and materials needed to do the job right. With powerful treatment solutions, the soot and smoke can be removed during a deep scrubbing of the building. Professionals have access to thermal fogging technology to take care of the odors emanating from behind walls. The thermal fogging produces a cloud of odor neutralizing particles that can go where the smoke does.
*Information courtesy of https://www.IICRC.org/blog/tag/smoke-damage-restoration
Smoke Alarms: Life Savers
Source: American Red Cross
Smoke alarms save lives when properly installed and maintained, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
In homes, smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and on every level, including the basement. In office and commercial environments, check your state requirements or contact your local Fire Marshall to help ensure all codes are met.
Test smoke alarms monthly using the test button. Smoke alarms with non-replaceable batteries need the entire smoke alarm unit replaced every ten years. Other alarms need batteries replaced every year and the unit replaced every ten years. If the alarm chirps signaling low battery, take the proper steps to replace the unit or the batteries immediately. Never disable or remove the battery from an alarm. Almost half of fires where smoke alarms were present but did not activate had missing or disconnected batteries (NFPA).
In larger commercial facilities, hard wired or wireless smoke alarms offer benefits such as not needing to be tested as often and activating throughout the entire building if smoke is detected in just one area (NFPA).
If you need help installing, testing or changing batteries in your smoke alarms, contact your local fire department, an electrician or the American Red Cross.
Be sure your home or workplace has a fire emergency plan in place and conduct regular fire drills. For more information on Emergency Preparedness, contact SERVPRO® of Conyers/Covington.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 2