Fire Damage FAQs:

Q: Why do you recommend cleaning after a small fire, even if I only have a smoke odor?

A: When you have even a small fire, the resulting damage will be smoke (soot) damage and odor.  The odor is a result of the soot residue being present.  Soot particles are microscopic and can be seen only in mass once there are enough to fill the air.  Once airborne, pressure causes the soot to rise and move toward colder oxygen.  Smoke damage within a structure is tough to contain to a single room or a single floor.

Q: Can you get the smoke odor out of my clothes?

A: Yes, in most cases, depending on how aggressive the odor is.  Many times, a simple washing or dry-cleaning will knock the smoke odor out.  In more extreme cases, we would need to deodorize the clothing using ozone gas before laundering or dry-cleaning to get the best results.

Q: We had a house fire, should I be worried about smoke in my attic also?

A: That depends on how much smoke has entered the attic, and how heavy the resulting smoke odor is.  Trace amounts of smoke with little or no odor are not as concerning, but heavy signs of soot or smoke odor would warrant the attic being treated as a living space.  As the attic is an unconditioned area, heat and humidity are common and will make odors more active and more noticeable.  Additionally, when the wind blows outside it creates pressure inside the structure envelope, which can also bring smoke odor into the living space.

Q: I had a small fire in my house.  Should you come out for an inspection before or after my adjuster comes out?

A: It doesn’t matter if we come to evaluate the damage before or after your adjuster comes.  The advantage of having an inspection before your adjuster comes out is for you to have a better understanding of the complete scope of damage and the steps necessary to restore your home.  Sometimes it is better to be knowledgeable of the process before your adjuster decides what actions are warranted so that you may offer input on the restoration of your property.

Q: I overcooked a dinner one night and haven’t been able to get rid of the odor, do I need professional help?

A: Maybe.  There is a difference between slightly overcooked and severely overcooked.  Slightly overcooked should “air out” in hours or a couple of days.  Severely overcooked food is what is generally referred to as a protein fire, which is a result of overheating a solid mass of protein to the point of turning it into a vapor.  These do not air out in days or sometimes even months.

We see fire damage in several ways; paper/wood, plastic, metal, and protein.  Each of these types of fires will leave you with their own thumbprint of damage.  Protein fires will usually not leave you with much of a black sooty residue, but they have a very high odor content associated with them.  Many times, it is deceiving how big a problem protein fires can be because the do not show the visible black soot damage.

Q: My contractor is planning on sealing over my smoke damaged walls to deodorize, is that a good idea?

A: Depending on how much soot residue there is and its odor content, there are two reasons that sealing over is a bad idea.  First, if a sealer is applied to cover up an odor, it can create an issue with a lingering odor later.  Second, the surfaces may be hard to seal.  The directions for use of any can of paint/sealer is going to say, “apply to clean, dry surface”.  Soot is a greasy/oily residue and will make the sealer less likely to adhere to any surface as it was intended to.

The goal in professional fire restoration is not to “seal odors in”, but instead significantly reduce or eliminate the odor first and seal only as a preventative measure after the surface has been thoroughly cleaned.

Q: How do you determine what rooms are affected, since they don’t appear to be soot damaged?

A: We inspect each room to evaluate the scope and extent of the smoke damage within the structure.  Our inspection process includes both visual and physical verification of the vertical and horizontal surfaces of each affected area.

Q: How do you know you are finding soot residues on the walls and not dust or something else?

A: When we inspect for smoke damage, we use different methods to identify trace amounts of soot that clings to vertical and horizontal surfaces.  That soot residue will be a grayish color to black, which would be consistent with something that has burned.

Q: Will my smoke odor go away in time?

A: Yes, it will eventually dissipate.  But, depending on how aggressive the odor is, it could be weeks, months, or even longer.

Q: Should I be concerned with smoke odors in my home, are they harmful?

A: There can be many potentially harmful toxic particles that are produced as a result of some products burning.  Many times, the answer as to whether something is detrimental to us or not depends on our health status.  Some individuals with respiratory issues, small children, and the elderly would have a lower tolerance for such toxins.  You should consult with your healthcare provider for an opinion on the potential health effect soot residue and odor may have on you.

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