Restoring Your Property After Wildfire Smoke Damage
Wildfires are a major risk for homeowners and business owners throughout the United States. The frequency, size and intensity of wildfires differs by year, but the most severe wildfires have occurred in the past decade. All 50 states have experienced wildfire damage at some point in the past 10 years, however wildfires are extremely common in the Central and Western states, where dry conditions, strong winds and extreme heat fuels fire and increases the number of acres burned. Regardless of the location and size of your property, you might someday need business or home restoration after wildfire.
Damage from a wildfire depends on the size, extent, and other factors. The thing that makes wildfires so dangerous is they can spread quickly and devastate not only wildlife and natural areas, but also home and business communities.
Understanding Wildfire Smoke Damage
Fire can damage and destroy a building and its contents, but smoke and soot also pose a considerable risk. Soot is a particulate that can spread far from the source of origin and creates a residue and an odor. The materials burned during the fire has a direct effect on the ease or difficulty of a restoration effort. Wood and paper soot is not as greasy or oily as soot produced from the burning of plastic furniture, carpet, or insulation. When plastics burn, they produce hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, hydro bromic and other reactive agents in varying amounts. Even light acid exposure may cause corrosion. The higher the humidity the more active the corrosive elements will be.
Smoke particles can settle into various surfaces and materials in a home or a business, such as:
- Flooring – carpet and wood
- Books and Paper
Assessing Smoke Damage to Your Home or Business
After the wildfire has passed, and it is safe to enter the property, our teams will perform an initial assessment. This assessment will help develop the scope of work and the necessary fire and smoke restoration services we need to perform. This assessment also includes:
- Board-up/tarp in order to secure the property from further damage
- Identify the need for dehumidification and/or corrosion control
- Determine which items will be restored and which items will be replaced
Restoring a Home or Business
Smoke damage restoration to fire damaged facilities and contents, including paper documents is possible. By removing burned materials and minimizing the humidity through dehumidification and careful decontamination, a home or office building can return to operation and minimize losses following a fire. Soot must either be removed or sealed in place to be rid of its odor. Most smoke odors will not simply “air out.” Further smoke damage cleanup measures will need to be taken to remove or seal the soot particulate. Vapor barriers can be constructed out of heavy plastic sheeting to help seal off the burned area or to protect sensitive areas.
Contents affected by fire, soot and smoke may be so heavily damaged that they require replacement. Test cleaning can confirm if an item is restorable, however, it must be cost effective to restore, as opposed to replacing. A common question that is asked is: “What’s the value of the piece?” Restoration of contents can be performed on-site or off-site.
Proper cleaning techniques and chemicals used in restoration can vary based on the type of item being restored.
The HVAC system must be cleaned and deodorized because soot particles have been trapped by the filtration system. All registers and ductwork must be thoroughly examined and, if contamination exists, cleaned. A neutralizing agent is applied to the ductwork to eliminate odors and, if necessary, a Duct Sealer may be applied to seal tony residual odors. Soot and smoke odor removal can normally be restored by using the proper techniques in combination with the following:
- Rags and a heavy-duty degreasing chemical mixed with a deodorizing agent (for glossy surfaces)
- Professional carpet/drapery cleaning system
- Professional HVAC/Duct cleaning system
- Thermo-Fog and/or Ozone for deodorization
Preventing Smoke Damage
When it comes to a disaster like a wildfire, proactively taking action to implement preventative measures before a wildfire occurs is key.
Strengthen your Property
- Use fire-resistant materials to build, renovate or make repairs.
- Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property.
- Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris, or flammable materials at least 30 feet from your home or business.
- Designate a room that can be closed off from the outside air. Close all doors and windows. Set up a portable air cleaner to keep indoor pollution levels low when smoky conditions exist.
Create Defensible Space Fire Zones
Areas of landscaping to consider include the 100-foot area around the home, areas of greenspace within, and wildlands surrounding a community. Landscaping around homes or office buildings should be well maintained. Research shows that maintaining this area properly can improve the survival of your home or commercial buildings.
Zone 1 (0-5 feet): Includes the structure, deck/patio/balcony, or other outside entertaining space as well as fencing that is attached to the structure and the landscaping from the home or building to 5 feet away.
- Remove all combustible materials like wood mulches, dead or dry vegetation, and leaves and pine needles from roofs and gutters.
- Trim tree branches that hang over the roof, eaves, and chimney.
Zone 2 (5-30 feet): Includes the area from 5 feet to 30 feet away from the home or building structure), including the property and all outbuildings.
- Keep this area clean and green by pruning and removing dead and dying branches from well-spaced bushes and trees.
- Make sure to keep this area well maintained and watered during a hot, dry summer.
- Stack wood piles on bare or gravel areas or in an enclosed shed at least 30 feet from the home or building structure.
Zone 3 (30-100 feet): This is the area farthest from the home or building structure, extending from Zone 2 to your property’s boundary from 30 to 100 feet. Reduce fuels by thinning and spacing vegetation vertically and limbing up trees horizontally to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames small and on the ground.
How to Prevent Smoke from Entering a Building
Here are a few ways to prevent smoke from entering your home or building structure:
- Block the underside of your door
- Block the cracks in your walls
- Reinforce your windows from smoke
- Seal the gaps in your ductwork
- Use a fan to direct the smoke back out
Let BMS CAT Restore Your Property
When your home or office building suffers from a fire, hiring an experienced professional restoration company is recommended. BMS CAT can help restore, rebuild, and recover your property after a wildfire.