Some of the biggest challenges associated with fire damage occur after the flames have gone out. During combustion, water vapor and intense heat are generated, both capable of causing extreme destruction. On top of this, smoke and soot will result in ongoing problems as they both contain toxic chemicals and pungent odors. Just how bad the odors and toxic effects are will depend on the composition of the fuel used for combustion, the intensity of the heat, and the length of time the fire ran before it was extinguished.
Plastics and other synthetic materials can leave behind chemical residues that are harmful if inhaled. Wood smoke, usually the greatest contributor to the amount of smoke in the building, contains methane, carbon monoxide, benzene, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, formic acid, acetic acid, and traces of heavy metals. This toxic soup will cause major problems for anyone who inhales the smoke or comes in contact with surfaces harboring smoke residue. Soot and smoke particles have a tendency to settle on carpets, furniture, countertops and walls in the hours following combustion. Before the flames go out, they will send smoke throughout the home, into ductwork, and into wall cavities. In short, there may be no place in the building untouched by smoke, and its presence means trouble.
Smoke particles are incredibly small and may be smaller than .01 microns in size. This is typically too small for standard residential air filters to catch. If the smoke particles are allowed to settle inside the home’s walls, they will create odors that are difficult to track down. Smoke is also acidic in nature, so it will slowly deteriorate various materials within the home. What this means is that a homeowner should contact a professional fire damage restorer as soon as possible. Acting quickly is the best defense in reversing the damage.
Removing smoke and soot requires the proper machinery and expertise. Homeowners should only consider professionals who have been certified through the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, or IICRC. This agency has overseen the certification of fire damage restoration companies for decades and is responsible for regularly updating the best practices in the industry. Technicians with IICRC certification are aware of the most advanced techniques and technologies in the industry. They are among the most knowledgeable members of their field.
During restoration, the technician will need to remove any items that have been destroyed and address any standing water left behind. Pooled water can foster the growth of mold and mildew in carpets and other textiles, so it must be removed quickly. The technician will also have an arsenal of counteractants capable of breaking down any soot or smoke they come in contact with. This is handy for removing ash and soot residue left behind on surfaces. Neutralizing odors left behind will be more difficult, but new methods, including thermal fogging or ozone treatment can break down smoke particles and force odors to dissipate.
It may seem like life will never return to normal following a disastrous fire, but with the help of IICRC certified technicians, a family can get back on track before long.