The scene of a fire can be horrifying. Distraught property and homeowners alike can be left reeling from the tragic effects of having lost many, if not all, of the things they loved the most. For this reason, the restoration of a building or structure that has been affected by fire is crucial for getting the life of those affected returned back to normal, as much, and as quickly, as possible.
Upon entering a fire-affected structure, remediators will have several questions they’ll be looking to answer. Questions involving what was burned, when the fire took place, what entrances to the home or structure were open, and whether or not the HVAC system was running at the time of the event are only a few of the details that your restorer will attempt to sift through.
On top of that, restorers that arrive on the scene will come wishing to achieve multiple goals. These include:
- To Establish an Environment That Is Safe
- To Establish an Environment That Is Clean
- To Establish an Environment That Can Be Likened to Its Original State, If Not Better
- To Establish an Environment That Is Free of Unwanted Odors
Restoration crews will inspect the fire-affected structure in question in hopes to answer the aforementioned questions, while also looking to achieve their overall goals. A positive rapport and teamwork will be needed between the restorer and the client to make these goals become a reality, and to please all parties involved.
In order for an effective restoration effort to be achieved, it will take a well-trained eye and a thorough search for clues on behalf of the remedial team. Restorers may use a white material or tissue to swipe for evidence of soot and smoke, much like a detective. Moreover, the remedial expert will take into account what they already know about smoke behavior including its tendency to travel to cooler surfaces, its tendency to travel towards HVAC systems, its attraction to static electricity and its tendency to settle on horizontal surfaces.
Hazards Presented By Post-Fire Structures
It should come as no surprise that fire-affected buildings and structures present multiple challenges for restorers and building occupants, alike. Because of these challenges, it is imperative that both the client and remedial technicians wear appropriate PPE, or personal protective equipment, before entering the impacted building.
The types of hazards that post-fire structures pose to occupants include airborne contaminants through the means of soot, dust and more, exposed electrical wiring, slippery surfaces, sharp edges and even weakened structures. Anyone who chooses to occupy the affected building must be aware of these hazards and take precautions to shield themselves against illness or injury through contact with any of the aforementioned perils.
In addition to physical hazards comes another hazard of an unsuspecting sort, and that is distraught home and property owners. After having suffered through a potentially tragic and traumatizing event, it is possible that home and business owners of a fire-affected structure could be experiencing heightened emotions that include fear, anger, stress and sadness. Through all of this, it is the goal of the restorer to empathize with building occupants while also adhering to safe practices and proper protocol for the best interest of everyone involved.
Be aware also that, although a restorer will always wish to help assist clients in any way that he or she can, the restorer may or may not always be able to rehabilitate a specific item at the client’s request. Nevertheless, the restorer will certainly try to clean and restore the item in question to the best of his or her ability, given that the proper tools and cleaning methods are available.
Although fire and smoke damage can leave an unsightly mess in its wake, the truth is that much of the damage caused by fire and smoke can be remediated through simple cleaning and deodorization practices.
Depending on the type of material affected and the severity of the damage, a remedial expert will need to make a decision as to which type of cleaning method will work best to restore and deodorize the fire-affected structure and its content.
There are two main types of cleaning methods that restorers may choose to employ. Wet cleaning refers to cleaning done using solutions that are water-based. Dry soil cleaning, on the other hand, refers to the removal of surface contaminants through the use of dry art gum erasers, dry sponges, HEPA vacuums and more. Depending on the type of material being cleaned, restorers may choose to use one or both of these methods to ensure an effective restoration.
Another factor that restorers must consider when remediating a fire and smoke-affected home or business is the pH level of the cleaning solution they are attempting to use. In many fire and smoke circumstances, the most common cleaner is the one that is alkaline due to the acidic nature of smoke itself. However, there may be times when acidic cleaners will also work. The remediator will weigh his or her options and choose what is best based on several considerations regarding the circumstance and the need of the moment.
When it comes to wet cleaning certain surfaces, there are several types of cleaners that can be used. These include:
- General Purpose Cleaners
- Heavy Duty Degreasers
- Wood Restorative Cream
- Alkaline Pre-Conditioners
The type of cleaner utilized by restorers will depend on the surface being cleaned, the safety of the product and its overall effectiveness of the product.
Another important part of the cleaning process is that of deodorizing a structure, and if necessary, sealing surfaces. Both methods provide relief from unpleasant odors for home and property owners of fire-affected buildings. The use of masking agents, pairing agents, ozone and petroleum solvent-based products all play a role in altering and removing smells left behind from fire and smoke events.
Structural and content cleaning will be handled on a case-by- case basis, as each material and surface that restorers encounter will present their own set of hazards, challenges and liabilities.
While many companies will clean items on-site, there are also entities that will provide off-site restorative care, especially for items of special interest. Items like clothing, firearms and other possessions may be sent to respective third-party contractors to be handled professionally.
Water Damage and Fire Restoration
Oftentimes, fire-affected homes and buildings are met, not only with the sundry challenges of smoke and fire, but also with the implications of water damage.
Water damage can occur to a home or business affected by smoke and fire for a variety of reasons, but most often, it is the result of fire suppression efforts of the fire department. As such, it is imperative that restorative crews respond swiftly to fire-affected homes, buildings and structures as timing is crucial when it comes to restoring water-impacted materials and surfaces.
There are multiple types of equipment used to re-odorize and deodorize structures. At the very basic level, most fire remedial technicians will have ozone machines, thermal foggers, truck mounts, air movers, ultra low volume and high volume sprayers and vapor dispersing systems with them upon arrival. Additional equipment will also be added when necessary for certain jobs.
Pre-Existing Conditions and Liability
Security and Board Up
When tragic events occur, it can, unfortunately, act as a magnet to attract unsavory visitors to the affected home or business. With a possibly vacant structure and compromised entryways, these predators can often gain easy access and can take possession of items that aren’t theirs.
To prevent this from occurring, restorers will thoughtfully inspect the affected structure for easy access points and address them as swiftly as possible. Restorers may use boards on windows, tarps, fitted inserts and more to help secure the structure.
Moreover, the remedial team will seek to winterize your home or business if needed, and will take several other precautions to ensure that your home, business or structure is kept safe.
Your Local Fire and Smoke Remedial Agent Can Help
Remember, it is always best to involve the help of a professional remedial service after having undergone a major, or even minor, fire and smoke ordeal. Doing so will ensure that all bases are covered and that no lingering residue or odors are left behind.
Furthermore, your remedial specialist will have the tools and equipment needed to address other problematic occurrences as a result of fire and smoke, including water damage. Thus, it is imperative that you enlist professional help before time runs out and restoration of salvageable items turn into costly, and unnecessary, replacements.
Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company
Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services such as biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, infectious disease disinfection and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.
- Cleaning a Fire-Affected Structure: The Basics
- Cleaning Agents and Their Uses in the Fire Restoration Process
- Cleaning Categories – Floor Coverings and Hard Surfaces
- Cleaning Categories- Acoustical Ceiling Tile, Painted Surfaces and Wood
- Cleaning Categories- Wallpaper, Masonry, Brick and Stone
- Cleaning HVAC and Ventilation Systems and Addressing General Content Liability
- Content Cleaning: Books, Documents and Highly Treasured Items
- Content Cleaning: Clothing, Soft Goods, Art and Toys
- Content Cleaning: Mattresses, Windows and Electronics
- Content Cleaning: Wood Furniture, Area Rugs and Upholstery
- Fire Restoration Technicians and Safety
- Fire Restoration Tools and Their Uses
- How To Handle the Unexpected Aftermath of a Fire
- Tackling Odors During the Fire Restoration Process
- The Impact of Smoke on the Restoration Process
- Ways in Which Fire Restoration Teams Strive to Provide Services With You in Mind
- Wildfire Restoration vs. Building Fire Restoration: What Restorers Need To Know