After a fire disaster, homeowners commonly want to know right away to what extent the fire has damaged their property. They want to see if there is anything left of their valuable possessions that are still salvageable. Understandably, fire victims want to immediately get into rebuilding and restoring their home and their lives.
It may be tempting for property owners to go into the burn site area the instant it appears that the flames have died down. However, under no circumstances should anyone re-enter a fire damaged property without the approval of the fire marshal first. Even if the fire seems to have been fully extinguished, flames can easily reignite with just a small gust of wind. The foundation holding up the property structure could be weak and crumbling after having been damaged by the fire. Smoke and fumes could still be emanating from the charred pieces, and these could be highly toxic and poisonous.
Remember that a burn site must first be declared safe by the fire department officials before trying to do any fire damage cleaning, restoring, and rebuilding.
Cleaning up after fire damage is a long and tedious process. It could be potentially quite costly too. However, the damage caused by the fire can actually be worsened if the people handling the fire restoration process don't really know what they're doing.
It is recommended that homeowners who have been fire victims contact their insurance company immediately after the fire. Aside from the assistance in assessing the damage to the property, the insurance company can also help in evaluating which pieces are salvageable or not. Additionally, they can also help in finding suitable fire restoration professionals for the insurance holder.
Fire restorers are armed with the right knowledge and the proper equipment needed in cleaning up after fire damage. They can not only minimize further damage to a homeowner's burned property, but they can also salvage precious belongings and restore them to their original condition. The outright cost of hiring fire restoration professionals may seem steep at first, but they could save homeowners a lot of money (not to mention save a lot of their original property) in the long run. They can determine which items can be saved and restored, instead of having the homeowner buy everything brand new.
Fire damage is not uniformly similar for all fire victims. It is therefore important to check the extent of the fire damage first before doing any cleaning. Doing so can help homeowners form a battle plan on how to proceed with the cleaning process. It will also help them estimate how much the cleanup is going to cost them.
Find out how much of the property has been damaged by fire. Also find out how much of the property has been damaged by the water used to extinguish the fire. Check which furniture pieces have been damaged and what their damages are. Determine how much time had passed since the fire occurred.
Ideally, fast and immediate action should be undertaken when cleaning after fire damage. Many items might not be salvageable anymore especially if left in their current scorched state for some time. But if getting professional fire restorers is out of budget and still needs to be planned, there are some things that homeowners can do themselves to save some of their personal belongings.
The first thing that homeowners can do themselves is to ventilate the fire damaged property. Open windows, use electric fans, switch on dehumidifiers - anything to get the air circulating within the area. Smoke particles and other toxic fumes trapped within the area need to be dispersed as soon as possible.
Secondly, anything that had gotten wet such as clothes, draperies, wall-to-wall carpets, and rugs should be dried immediately. Hang them on clotheslines, lay them out under the sun, and use fans to help them dry quicker. If these things are left wet, mold and mildew could form on them and make cleaning a lot harder.
The same goes for floors, walls, and other parts of the house that are made of wood. These need to be dried to prevent damage from mold and mildew. Removing a wet carpet can not only save the carpet itself, but also the wooden floor that may be underneath.
Cover any furniture, fabrics, and other small items that are dry, clean and have not sustained fire damage with a plastic cover. Take these out of the house while the repairs and restoration are going on. Keep them safe and away from the other fire damaged items so that soot and smoke odors will not transfer between them.
Carpets, rugs, clothing, and other textiles need to be rid of soot stains before cleaning or deodorizing. Because it is so easy to accidentally mark other surfaces with soot, these things should be first carefully removed and taken out of the house. It is wise to let professionals take care of both the cleaning and the transferring of soot-stained items.
Professional fire restorers and carpet cleaners use a heavy duty vacuum to remove soot from textiles. It is highly inadvisable, but homeowners who would rather do it themselves can use a regular house vacuum to lift the soot away from carpets and rugs. Hold the nozzle above the surface and do not use vacuum attachments with brushes as these could rub the soot into the fabric even deeper. Once soot-free, cover all items with a plastic cover to protect them from the fire damage cleanup debris.
The textiles may be rid of soot, but they have to be deodorized before they are ready to be cleaned. Fire restorers use a process called ozone treatment wherein all items are deodorized in a tent or in a room. This process removes all smoke particles and neutralizes odors that have been absorbed in the textiles during the fire.
Homeowners can try to use perfumes, sprays, and other household disinfectants, but these are only temporary solutions and only mask the smell. They also do not work as well as the ozone treatment in eliminating odors. Refrain from using these as they could react with the smoke molecules and create even more unwanted odors.
For cleaning carpets, rugs, clothing, and textiles, it is best to take them to the laundry or the dry cleaners. Explain that the items have been fire damaged so that they know the appropriate cleaning process to use. Some items may have to be cleaned two or three times before all signs of fire damage are removed.
Furnishings, walls, ceilings, floors, and even air ducts that have sustained fire damage also need to be deodorized prior to cleaning. Deodorizing is especially important for these parts of the house. If not deodorized properly, smoke molecules can remain in the pores of their materials and continue to release smoke odors even after the fire damage cleanup. These odors can easily spread onto clothes, furniture, carpets, and to other parts of the house, especially on a warm day when the high temperatures can reopen smoke-filled pores. Proper deodorizing can spell the difference between big savings and spending thousands of dollars on cleaning everything again.
For deodorizing these particular areas, fire restorers use a process called thermal fogging. Just like how a fire can open the pores of walls, ceilings, floors, and air ducts, thermal fogging can reopen these pores and release the smoke odors that were trapped in them. The chemicals used in thermal fogging effectively neutralize smoke odors without damaging property.
Cleaning furnishings, walls, ceilings, and floors is best left to the professionals. But if a homeowner has no choice but to personally do it, do not make the mistake of using one single cleaning agent for everything. Different materials react to different chemicals so check their compatibility before attempting to clean anything. It is best to use non-water-based cleaners for soot-stained walls as soot is oily and will not react well with water-based solutions. Consider replacing all insulation materials throughout the house as these cannot be cleaned nor can they be deodorized.
Electronic devices such as TVs, DVDs, computers, and laptops that have been damaged are the hardest things to salvage after a fire. Homeowners stand to lose not only the worth of the electronic device, but also the pictures, videos, documents, music, and other important data that may be in them.
If the electronic device shows visible fire damage, have it looked at by a professional to see if the data inside can still be recovered. Even if the electronic device does not seem to be damaged, the heat from the fire can easily destroy its inner parts. Have these inspected by a professional as well before plugging them in an electrical socket and trying to use them.
Cleaning up after fire damage is considered a job only for professionals. Homeowners whose properties have suffered fire damage should contact fire restorers to help them recover, restore, and rebuild anything that they have lost to the fire.