According to most research from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than one quarter (27%) of all fires reported in the U.S. occur inside of residential properties.
Over a five-year period, fire departments across the country responded to an estimated 353,100 house fires per year. Collectively, these fires cost $7.2 billion in direct property damage, annually.
From cooking and heating to faulty lighting and smoking materials, there are a number of causes that can lead to a fire. If this happens at your home, it pays to have the best local fire clean up companies on speed dial.
These teams can quickly get to work to mitigate the damage caused by the smoke and fire. By taking swift action, you can help preserve as much of your property as possible and mitigate future expenses.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at how the cleanup process works. We’ll also share how to find the most reputable teams in your area so you’re always prepared in case of an emergency.
After a Fire: The Importance of Careful Cleanup
Even when the flames are put out and the smoke clears, most families affected by a house fire are (rightfully) still reeling. A fire can result in more than just physical damage. It can also leave long-lasting emotional effects, especially in the case of extensive property loss.
The same holds true for business owners. While residential fires are more prevalent, commercial fires still occur at a regular, staggering pace. In 2019 alone, the Insurance Information Institute reports that there were 120,000 reported non-residential fires across the U.S., causing $4.3 billion in damages.
Flames and smoke damage can ruin personal possessions, workstations, and office equipment in seconds. They can also weaken and compromise a building’s structural integrity.
While it’s a natural instinct to rush into the cleaning process and attempt to rapidly restore some sort of order, it’s important to approach this critical task the right way. Once the initial shock of the event has subsided, homeowners or business owners can begin to prepare the space for recovery efforts.
Why should you call a professional cleanup and restoration team to handle this job? Taking the reins on your own is more than just a time-consuming and laborious effort. It can also be risky for your health.
Next, let’s take a look at a few of the main reasons why this is one task that’s best left to the experts.
DIY Cleanup Could Expose You to Health Hazards
In this case, what you can’t see actually could hurt you. Even when the visible signs of a fire are extinguished, there could still be health hazards that remain hidden.
Specifically, we’re talking about the smoke and soot that a fire leaves behind. Not only are these dusky remnants unwelcome reminders of the catastrophic event that took place, but this residue could also expose you to harmful irritants.
First, let’s talk about soot.
Dangers of Soot Exposure
Soot consists of tiny particles that form when organic matter doesn’t burn cleanly. A few of the most common commercial or residential items that can leave soot include:
When materials like these burn, the hydrocarbons they contain don’t fully combust. If they did, the matter would burn cleanly and leave no residue behind. Instead, you’ll find a black, powdery substance all around your property.
While a fire is burning, soot can often become ionized. This attracts it to certain surfaces and causes it to stick in place. In addition to other areas, you’re especially likely to discover soot in the following areas around your home or place of business:
- Inside the ventilation system
- Coated in a layer over your personal items
- Within the carpet fibers
- Etched into glass
As you can imagine, it can be very difficult to completely remove soot residue from such surfaces! However, this is an important step in the cleanup process and one that cannot be overlooked. Without proper cleaning, for instance, the soot could enter your ventilation system and recirculate in your home when the system turns on.
Why is this an important issue?
Due to the way it forms, soot can contain toxic materials. Some of those materials are simply remnants from the matter itself. Others are produced as a byproduct of the fire’s high heat and the chemical reactions it catalyzes.
Among many others, a few of the materials that you might find in soot include:
- Asbestos fibers
As you walk around a recently-burned property, it might be relatively easy to spot obvious signs of soot and smoke. For instance, you might find the fine substance lining a stairwell or heaped up in the kitchen. As such, you know to avoid those certain areas.
Other times, however, soot particles can be so tiny that they become invisible. If you attempt to repair your property on your own, there’s a chance you could walk through these particles and expose yourself to toxic materials unknowingly. You could inhale those materials through your mouth or nostrils, or they could penetrate your skin. They can also irritate your eyes.
If these materials get into your body, they could wreak havoc on your internal systems. Some of the most severe symptoms of soot inhalation or ingestion include:
- Respiratory distress (difficulty breathing, asthma, bronchitis)
- Coronary heart disease
Elderly people and infants are the populations most at-risk of developing these symptoms. If you already have breathing problems, you’re also more vulnerable.
Next, let’s discuss the similar dangers that smoke can trigger.
Dangers of Smoke Inhalation
Avoiding toxic soot isn’t the only reason to steer clear of a fire-damaged property. Depending on the timeline, there could also be residual smoke still contained within the rooms.
The dangers of smoke inhalation mimic those presented by soot. Yet, they can be even farther-reaching and severe. There are four main ways that smoke can damage your body. These include:
- Simple asphyxiation (oxygen loss)
- Chemical asphyxiation
- Chemical or thermal irritation
- A combination of the above methods
Simple asphyxiation occurs when a combustion uses up all of the available oxygen near a fire. This means there’s no oxygen left to breathe. In the case of chemical asphyxiation, the fire produces compounds that interfere with your bodily cells and their ability to use available oxygen. Examples of these compounds include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
- Hydrogen sulfide
Both simple and chemical asphyxiation impact how your body intakes and uses oxygen. This can result in a host of serious symptoms, including:
- Reflex coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Eye irritation
- Skin color changes
- Respiratory issues
- Mental confusion
Though some of these symptoms are seemingly minor in nature, they can worsen and lead to other conditions down the road. This post explains more about our in-depth approach to smoke removal.
Common Chemical Irritants
In most cases, the risk of smoke inhalation is usually highest during or directly after a fire. If you’re ready to begin cleanup efforts, you’re primarily concerned with the chemical or thermal irritants that can remain and linger.
When a fiery combustion occurs, it can cause certain chemicals to form in smoke that can result in physical injury if they come into contact with your skin or mucous membranes. These are the same toxins that are also present in the resulting soot. In addition to the materials listed in that section, smoke can can also contain:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Hydrogen chloride
Unless a thorough, professional cleanup occurs, both smoke and soot can remain in a property for years. While their effects may not be as quick or noticeable, long-term exposure can result in the same health conditions over a period of time. Plus, the persistent stench they leave behind can be unbearable.
A Word on Wet Smoke
The phenomenon is nowhere near as commonly discussed, but did you know that smoke can also be wet?
Wet smoke occurs when a smoldering fire occurs and isn’t immediately extinguished. Instead, it’s allowed to linger and burn slowly at a low heat. While you might be used to the dry, powdery soot that a fast-burning fire can catalyze, wet smoke is a different story.
This material is very different in appearance and texture. In addition to being thick and jet-black, it’s also clammy, moist and a real pain to remove. This is because most homeowners try to wipe it away, which only results in messy spreading and smearing.
Plastic and rubber are examples of two materials that leave wet smoke as they burn. Trying to clean up this substance on your own could result in more extensive damage.
This is just one reason why it’s best to leave this job in the hands of a capable, trained and experienced team like ours at CTR.
We specialize in deep-cleaning techniques that can help you completely rid your property of fire and smoke damage. While it might not be possible to completely salvage every item of meaning, our crew will work carefully and diligently to preserve your belongings and restore your home or business.
The Importance of Specialized Equipment
Looking for another reason to hire a professional fire cleanup company? The tools and techniques required to do the job properly are more extensive than what you’ll find at the local hardware store.
While you might feel comfortable starting with a set of flame-resistant clothing, a bottle of degreaser and a standard dust mask, you’ll soon find that these materials are usually inadequate for the job at hand. This is true whether you’re dealing with a small house fire or complete structural destruction.
Wiping away the visible debris only removes the harmful particles you can see. Yet, there are plenty more that could remain underneath the surface.
Why should you take the time to make sure they’re totally gone? The longevity of your salvageable items depends on it.
You see, the residue that soot leaves behind is highly acidic. If it remains on your surfaces for an extended period of time, it can settle in and begin to erode and discolor those materials.
One of the first places you’ll notice this change is on your door knobs. Residual soot can corrode the metal on the knob or handle, along with other metal finishes such as faucets or pipes. Over time, it can even enter into your HVAC system and corrode the metal parts there. This can cause the system to malfunction and could even pose another fire risk.
Eliminating all traces of soot can help ensure that your surfaces stayed protected and this isn’t the case.
A professional fire and smoke damage cleanup team will have access to the advanced, powerful tools required to clean and clear your property the right way. For example, they can apply a special alkaline cleaner to neutralize the acids contained in the soot.
Most importantly, they’ll also be trained and experienced in the use of such tools and products, and know how to maneuver them the correct way.
A few of the most common solutions that an expert restoration company can provide include:
- Industrial-grade vacuuming to remove every trace of chemicals, smoke, and soot
- Odor eliminators to contain and remove unpleasant smoky scents
- Dehumidification services to eliminate excessive moisture in the air
Even the best equipment could be rendered ineffective or even unsafe in the wrong hands. If you do manage to acquire professional-level tools, it’s still best to let a skilled crew handle the process from start to finish.
Expertly Sorting Damaged Goods
So far, we’ve discussed the health risks you could incur by trying to handle fire cleanup and restoration on your own. Yet, there’s also another aspect to consider, and it’s far more personal.
To the untrained eye, any item covered in soot or ash might be considered unsalvageable, or damaged beyond repair. This also applies to materials that appear to be extensively smoke-damaged.
If you’re sorting through the damage yourself, you might make these assumptions and discard important family heirlooms, expensive office gear, or another highly-valued material. Not only could this mean unnecessarily getting rid of items that are important to you, but inaccurately surveying the extent of the damage could also affect the validity of future insurance claims.
The good news? Our team can apply advanced recovery methods to help minimize your losses. While there may still be items that cannot be restored back to their original condition, we will work to ensure that any salvageable goods are salvaged.
Eliminating Smoke Odors
The fire you experienced might have been a small, contained candle fire that didn’t spread to other areas of your home. However, the odor generated from the smoke could transfer into other areas of your property if left untreated.
This can occur because the damage is often deeper than you realize, or can visibly detect. Consider the personal items in your room. This includes furniture, clothes, toys, drapes and more. These could become deeply saturated with both smoke odors and soot damage,
At the same time, soot falling from the candle could have nestled into the fibers of your carpet or rug. Or, it could be in hard-to-reach places around the room that a standard bathroom simply cannot tackle. The off-putting scent could even travel into your walls and float up to the ceiling.
At first, it’s tempting to think that a few strategically-placed diffusers or room refreshers will do the trick. However, you’ll soon find that products like those do little beyond temporarily mask the scent. Instead, you need a deep clean that totally rids your space of not only the noticeable smell, but the particles that are causing the smell in the first place.
Even a fire that seems minimal can result in damage that’s more widespread than you realize. A professional team knows exactly where to look and which steps to take to remove all signs of a fire.
Performing Other Structural Repairs
In addition to cleanup services, there’s a chance that your fire-damaged property might also need more extensive structural restoration. A professional team can help you plan your next move and advise on any necessary repairs.
As you prepare to restore your rooms and building, it’s important to thoroughly assess all of the damage. Our restoration experts know how to look for any signs of charring or warping that might have occurred during or after the fire.
There are certain items that might have been displaced or destroyed during the event. These include:
- Flooring and subflooring
- Window panes
In addition to these structural repairs, you may also need other, more surface-level refinishing. Smoke can turn both walls and floors yellow over time. It can also settle into porous stones, such as marble or granite countertops, permanently discoloring them if prompt action isn’t taken.
Our CTR team is well-versed in all aspects of property restoration, and can help you restore and replace these structural elements back to their pre-loss condition. Before we begin this process, we’ll take the time to secure your foundation to prevent further damage from occurring.
If any items are salvageable, we can treat them quickly with a top-grade deodorizer to eliminate any smoke odors. This step is critical for any structural framing materials that have been compromised. Treating the odor as soon as possible helps ensure that when it’s time to install new drywall or paneling, the former smoke odor won’t leak out past the new installations and into the rest of the room.
Before beginning work, we’ll also take the time to ensure that any areas under restoration or construction are properly sectioned off from the rest of the building. This includes using protective plastic sheets and other gear to ensure against cross-contamination.
The Assurance of a Quick Response
When left to your own devices, you might not know where to begin when it comes to cleaning up and restoring your property after a fire.
For one, it can take a significant amount of time to re-adjust emotionally and mentally after the shock of the event. In the direct aftermath of the occurrence, you deserve time for yourself and your family to grieve, reflect and receive counseling if necessary.
You shouldn’t have to contend with the seemingly impossible task of making sense of the debris, sorting through belongings, and attempting to clean every surface impacted by smoke, flames and fumes.
That’s where our team comes in.
We know the value and importance of a quick response, for any sort of restoration or cleanup effort. We understand that the faster and more effectively we act, we have a stronger chance of containing and mitigating any damage that has occurred.
Substances like smoke and soot only become more ingrained in your surfaces the longer they’re allowed to sit there. We’ll get to work as soon as you call to remove them completely.
Fire Clean Up Companies Restore Order and Hope
It’s never easy to bounce back from a devastating fire at your home or workplace. However, there are ways to optimize the outcome.
As you grapple with the magnitude of the event, a professional restoration team can help you reclaim and restore your property, along with your peace of mind. Expert fire clean up companies will have the tools, technologies and advanced industry knowledge required to help keep your damages low and your spirits high.
At the core of our mission is the heart we have for our customers. We recognize that when you need us, you’re going through one of the most difficult times in your life. We’re here to walk you through the process that follows, one step at a time.
Looking for a company to help remove fire and smoke damage? Contact us today for a free quote.