When the firefighters roll up their hoses and the firetrucks leave the scene, your home or business is suffering from a number of ailments: fire damage, smoke damage, water damage, and the caustic consequences of the intermixing of those various elements. If your property has been the site of a fire, you need to call us immediately–we can be reached at 866-879-0358. We will be happy to explain any and all aspects of our services and procedures, so that you know exactly what to expect. Please don’t delay in contacting us.
Fire restoration work must begin immediately–the emergency doesn’t end when the fire is out.
The damage from a fire doesn’t stop once the flames have been put out. Structural fires involve more chemicals and reactions than what you could find in your average chemistry set. Just for starters, ash and smoke particulates are corrosive, and will eat into the material of any surface that they settle upon. The water used to extinguish building fires, when mixed with this material, creates a strongly alkaline solution that can digest just about anything (potassium hydroxide, better known as lye, is produced by leaching wood ash in water). When you add all the off-gassing produced by the burning of the many artificial compounds that make up the carpets, upholstery, appliances, and other items that commonly fill households and businesses, it should become obvious that the heat produced by a fire is only the beginning of the potential harm to your property and possessions.
In the meantime, structural damage caused by the fire may turn out to be more extensive than realized. In the hours and days following a fire, load-bearing structures may prove to be fatally weakened, and ensuing collapses may result in the loss of property, or injury to those on the premises who don’t realize the danger.
Before we get to you, here’s what you need to do.
There are a few things you can do to minimize the risks to you and your belongings in those first few critical hours:
- Get your family and all pets offsite. The compounds produced by burning construction materials can be highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and can seriously exacerbate any existing health conditions.
- If possible, shut off the water supply and electricity to the premises. If the main leading into the house or building hasn’t been seriously damaged, shutting off the water supply to the house can prevent any additional damage in areas of the house where internal plumbing has been compromised. Shutting off electricity will prevent any potential for secondary fires due to damaged wiring.
- Open all windows. Air circulation will help lower the concentration of corrosive combustion byproducts in the home, and will accelerate the evaporation rate of any moisture in the area remaining from firefighting efforts.
- Get anything that can spoil off the premises. Chances are that your refrigeration and freezing units won’t be running anytime soon. You can minimize the production of unpleasant odors that might saturate any possessions or structures near kitchen or food preparation areas by emptying refrigerators and freezers, and disposing of the contents appropriately.
- Take inventory. For insurance purposes, it’s best to start documenting the contents of your home sooner rather than later. As more and more personnel come on scene and fire mitigation and repair procedures proceed, severely damaged items may disposed of to make certain areas and structures more easily accessible. It’s a lot easier to prove the destruction of a possession if you have photos of it in situ to prove your case. However, please make sure that you have already contacted us before you complete this process. The sooner we arrive, the more likely it is that we can salvage precious and irreplaceable possessions.
- Don’t disturb deposits of smoke residue or fire byproducts. While it’s important to stop corrosion processes ASAP, many of the byproducts of a structural fire can cause injury or even be life-threatening if inhaled or allowed to come in contact with mucous membranes. You are more important than your possessions. Please allow us to take care of the dirty work.
Stabilizing the scene is the first step in fire damage restoration work.
Just as doctors in an emergency room must stabilize a patient before they can begin to undo the damage done to their body, our first goal when we come on scene is to stabilize any structural or security issues, so that the area can be safely worked in. We can board and shore up damaged walls and load bearing structures, and place tarps over severely damaged sections of roof, so that rain or other material won’t further contaminate your home and the objects within.
From this point on, procedures for fire and smoke damage restoration are more or less identical to water damage amelioration and restoration.
Smoke and soot cause degradation in the materials that make up homes and the appliances and items they contain at varying rates, depending on their composition. Plastics and artificial fibers will begin to discolor within minutes, while fiberglass and the compounds used to finish and seal flooring and common appliances will yellow and deteriorate in a period of hours. In a matter of days, furniture upholstery will discolor, and metal will first tarnish, and then corrode.
Dealing with structures and the contents within that have been affected by exposure to fire and chemical exposure is a very similar process to what we do when dealing with water and mold damage. In either case, surfaces and structures are being degraded by foreign contaminants–mold and fire byproducts both qualify–and because of firefighting interventions, it’s likely that a great deal of water will need to be extracted, and the resulting water damage dealt with. Water damage and fire damage both result in the contents of a home becoming saturated in unpleasant odors, which requires profession-level intervention. For more information on where the process continues from here, please see our page on water damage restoration.