How Smoke, Chemicals & Water Impact Fire Damage Restoration

fire extinguishers sosIt’s the day after the worst night of your life: when a fire broke out in your living room. You’re kicking yourself for forgetting to turn off that space heater, and for positioning it too close to the curtains in the first place. You’re thankful no one was hurt and that firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze fast—thankful, too, that most of your possessions were spared from fire damage. That is, until you get word from your claims adjustor that additional damage has been caused by smoke as well as the water and chemicals used to fight the fire. The damage is so extensive that it calls for professional help. Even more distressing is the news that because you do not have comprehensive coverage to insure all losses related to a fire, these “indirect” causes of damage are not covered. Lesson learned: Review your home insurance policy language for any exclusions or loopholes, and consult with your agent to ensure complete fire coverage. There’s also a lot to be learned from the fire itself; for example, how do smoke, water and chemicals cause damage? And how do disaster restoration specialists clean it all up?

Smoke Damage

Let’s start with the effects of smoke damage, which can appear in two forms. In the case of a slow, smoldering fire, the resulting smoke residue (soot) will be sticky, wet and strong smelling. Wet soot has an oily texture that stains carpets, furniture and any cloth furnishings in the house. A fast burning fire, however, leaves behind dry soot that smears and stains less—but the dry soot often becomes damp due to the moisture from the fire hose. Smoke damage remediation involves the use of industrial-strength vacuuming to suck up the soot without smearing it. Attempting to brush off soot only embeds it deeper into the fabric. As the pros vacuum the room, each area is covered with a drop cloth to protect it. Smoke odor, on the other hand, lingers in fabrics and is not as straightforward to remove. Professional cleaners use different chemicals to break down smoke molecules. Other methods including ozone treatment and applying specially formulated paint that seals up the source of smoke odor.

Extinguishing the Fire

Firefighting chemicals are catch-22s because while they can (thankfully) extinguish a blaze, they can also wreak havoc upon your possessions. Dry chemicals like Ammonium Sulphate produce a crust that can extinguish almost any classification of fire and prevent re-ignition of a combustible material that is on fire. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) puts out a non-corrosive gas that removes the oxygen that fuels the fire. Fire extinguishers emit low-expansion foam, while high-expansion foam is used for fighting fire in a confined space such as a basement. All of these firefighting chemicals—with the exception of Halon, used in electrical fires and known as a “clean agent”—leave behind a residue that requires professional-grade equipment and expertise to remove from a fire-stricken home or workplace.

Water Damage from Fire

Finally, anyone who has been through a fire knows that where there’s smoke, there’s water—and lots of it after firefighters have finished battling a blaze. The key to salvaging your belongings from water damage and preventing mold is to act quickly to begin the process of removing the moisture from your carpets, furniture and walls. Left unattended, mold spores reproduce rapidly, may cause allergies and asthma, and can even render a space uninhabitable. Professionals use mobile, state-of-the-art water extraction equipment and technology to get the job done as quickly as possible. Standing water is removed from flat surfaces by sponging and blotting. Electronics such as computers are transported to a dry environment, their cases removed and blown dry with low-pressure air. Saturated rugs and carpets are taken up when hardwood floors are at risk…these are just a few examples of the many steps involved in drying out a structure and restoring its contents. With proper precautions (and a dose of good luck), you may never experience the trauma of a fire or dealing with its messy aftermath. But just in case, it’s helpful to know just how destructive the combination of smoke, chemicals and water can be—and who to call when the prospect of cleaning it up yourself is overwhelming. LDR Construction Services, Inc. Cleaning & Restoration has proudly served all of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin since 1991. LDR specializes in the complete repair of fire, smoke, wind, water and vandalism damage to both commercial and residential properties. Capable of handling any size loss and working with all types of insurance providers, the LDR disaster team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. For more information, visit or call 1-888-874-7066. Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / download the free Emergency Response Plan guide.



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