An area twice the size of Los Angeles has been charred by the Dixie Fire in Northern California, making it the state’s second-largest wildfire in modern history. The statistics are staggering and somber: roughly 1300 structures have been destroyed completely, with 12000-and-counting remaining threatened by the month-long blaze.
When devastation is still so rampant, it is hard to get perspective and spot the phoenix that will rise from the ashes. Other statistics speak of our collective will to triumph over such adversity. Nearly 6000 personnel have been working hands-on to fight the wildfire.
When the ash and soot start to settle on some 735,064 acres of land, residents will need to steel themselves for a return to their homes — some of the 12,000 structures that will be undoubtedly compromised by smoke damage.
As evacuees begin to pick up and rebuild the pieces, it’s essential to highlight the role that smoke damage from a wildfire plays in whatever is still standing.
The Dangers of Smoke Damage
Upon returning to your property after a fire has occurred, it’s important to recognize and treat smoke damage as its own category of devastation, separate from that of the fire itself. While most will be grateful that your home is still standing, it often proves emotionally triggering to see smoke-stained walls that are the result of smoke clouds and not actual fire.
Smoke inhalation is actually the biggest cause of death from an indoor fire – not the fire itself. This serves to illustrate the real and present danger that one needs to consider upon returning to a smoke-filled building.
What to Expect?
Smoke residue and soot are the lingering evidence that a trauma has occurred. And it is this evidence that needs to be cleaned up appropriately to ensure that no permanent damage occurs, such as pervasive odor on your spared furniture.
Smoke from fire comes with high temperatures and high acidic content, combining to form corrosive properties that can damage everything from appliances to plastics in your home.
The integrity of your electrical wiring insulation is at risk in the aftermath of smoke damage. Similar to how odors settle in and worsen over time, this type of smoke damage isn’t as easy to identify straight away. This is a job best left to restoration experts to assess and then deal with appropriately to ensure all traces of smoke have been properly eradicated.
The Dangers of Soot Damage
Soot is a by-product of fire that consists mainly of carbon. Its fine, powder-like quality makes it as pervasive as water as it wills its way into your carpets, curtains, furniture, and clothing. Prolonged exposure to soot also carries an increased risk of cancer (specifically skin, lung, bladder, and esophagus cancer).
You need to be as quick as you can in eliminating soot from your home environment so that you’re not inhaling soot as you go about counting your losses and wondering where to begin.
What You Can Do
Consider, for starters, the metal in your property—everything from doorknobs down to the pipes in your home. Smoke is highly corrosive, causing things to leak; everything from the water in your pipes to the metal in your frying pan. You can start the cleanup process by using cooking oil to wipe down all the metal objects in your house. This will at least delay the corrosion and buy you some time before a professional can apply a proper, industrial-strength cleaner.
Bathrooms usually contain a lot of porcelain and plastic – both of which stain easily. If you are looking to roll up your sleeves and get to work, wiping these surfaces down with soap or an all-purpose cleaner is a good effort to make on your own. Be careful, though. Porous substances such as fabric (carpets, rugs, and curtains), furniture (upholstery), and clothing are all items you can’t simply fix with a bit of elbow grease. Good intentions can result in inadvertently rubbing the soot deeper, causing a long-lasting yellow stain. The correct action in this regard is a well-positioned vacuum cleaner head hovering just above the porous surface. However, most soft and hard surface removable contents will require professional cleaning, despite DIY efforts.
While this may be the last thing on your mind, you must also ensure that you have the proper protective PVC clothing, that your cleaning fluid isn’t destroying the varnish on your furniture, and that your vacuum is strong enough to suck up the soot.
Trust the Experts at Restoration 1
At Restoration 1, we understand that the charred and scarred remnants can be devastating on the eye as well as the heart and mind. And that’s why fire & smoke damage services are always better left up to the professionals. Above all, it’s often not safe to start cleaning up yourself.
If you need help restoring your home and belongings from smoke damage, our team at Restoration 1 is always here to help. We’ll safely remove and clean any damaged components from your house and restore your property so it can be repaired.
Above all, our goal is to help you and your family get back on your feet as quickly as possible. To learn more about our fire and smoke damage services, click here.