FEMA reported over 1,318,000 fires in 2018, resulting in 3,655 deaths and over $25.6 billion in damages. While we should all be diligent in following proper fire prevention measures, fires can still happen. The Red Cross provides some tips you can follow for cleaning up some fire damage, but experts recommend getting professional assistance for fire clean up, if possible. The long-term effects of not handling fire damage appropriate are too costly to ignore.
Here are some of the problems homeowners can face from substandard fire cleanup procedures:
- Structural insecurity
Even if your home or office is still standing after a fire, can you trust that the remaining materials are up for the job of keeping your walls, floors, and structures in place? High temperatures from a fire can warp metal beams, split wood framing, and cause ceiling joists to move or bend. The result is a home or office that’s not as structurally sound as it was before the fire, and this could be a serious danger for those living there.
- Lung irritants
Parts of your home or office that didn’t catch on fire may still be covered in ash. This ash is light, moves easily in the air, and can get sucked into your nose or mouth where it causes issues in the lungs. For the average person, a small amount of ash inhalation might not be a worry, but children, older adults, and those with breathing issues might experience serious medical side effects. Even if you don’t see ash with the naked eye, it can still be in the air. Not removing it thoroughly can cause big problems.
- Chemical pollution
The ash and remains of burned materials can cause a hazard on their own, but additional chemicals are usually released into the air during and after a fire, as well. Items like paint, upholstery, carpeting, electronics, and cleaning supplies may have changed chemical properties during their exposure to high temps, leaving the area around them unsafe to breathe in. Volatile products, like bottles of bleach, medicines, or pool cleaning supplies, may have exploded or combined through the fire, making the immediate area a danger.
You should always get the approval from fire teams or local officials before reentering the home or office, but avoid areas where flammable materials have been stored until you get the OK from remediation crews. Professionals should be wearing personal protective equipment at all times when handling damaged materials; follow their lead and avoid anything you are uncertain about until the remediation is done.
- Old building risks
Was your home or office built or restored prior to 1978? If so, there may be lead or asbestos materials inside your building that have become disturbed during a fire incident. While not a danger when tucked away behind the walls, these risks can become a problem when exposed to fire or restoration techniques. Not everyone is equipped to handle these threats safely and legally; certified fire restoration professionals should have a plan of action in dealing with them if they see them and can replace or repair without further risk to you, your employees or your family.
If water or foam was used to put out the fire, they could have damaged drywall, carpeting, or other porous materials beyond repair. Simple cleaning will not rid these materials of the moisture that could later cause mold. Wet surfaces need prompt attention to prevent mold and toxin growth; not doing so could replace one problem for another.
- Future fire hazards
Fires can leave your home or office with damage that’s not easy to see at first, but without proper attention, this damage could make your building prone to more fires. Soot and chemical residue can corrode motors and mechanical systems of your HVAC system; melted wiring covers or harnesses can leave wiring exposed. Not handling these “unseen” hazards with a thorough inspection is dangerous, and one of the many reasons leaving fire cleanup to experienced professionals is advised. They can also look at the damage that’s done and give you advice for minimizing fire patterns in the future, through fire-stops in your building’s structure or additional smoke alarms or even a sprinkler or extinguisher system.
- Financial stress and worry
Finally, while not an environmental concern, your financial future is something that an ill-equipped or dishonest fire cleanup crew may put at risk. When hiring someone without the proper knowledge (or worse, is just out to take your money), you may find yourself chasing down payments in addition to getting your building back to a safe status. People who experience fire have enough to worry about, and it’s not uncommon to have symptoms of PTSD or other mental health issues from the fire and loss it causes. Don’t add another stressor to your list by hiring unqualified fire cleanup companies.
Questions to ask a potential fire cleanup company include:
- Are you certified for asbestos or lead cleanup and removal?
- Are you aware of any FEMA rebuilding requirements for my area?
- What references can be offered?
- How will you address issues like mold or structural damage?
- What guarantees or ongoing customer support can you offer?
- Who is the point of contact about questions I may have during and after the fire cleanup process?
The company should be able to share this information with you without any hesitation.
Keeping perspective on the costs of fire clean up
Surviving a fire may have left you feeling like you’ve walked away from significant danger, and you should certainly count your blessings. Because even normal-looking parts of the home or office can harbor unseen dangers from fire, however, it’s smart to address issues with the help of a professional who has experience in the dangers of fire damage over time. Handling fire clean up the right way is an investment, but it’s nothing like the cost of putting your employees or family in harm’s way from hidden health risks. Putting the fire behind you will take time, but getting your home or office back is what’s truly important.
Ideal has been helping organizations and families recover from fire and smoke damage for over 50 years. Our crossed trained asbestos certified technicians are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
Interested in how you can best prepare for or recover from fire and smoke damage? Contact us today for your virtual assessment.