There aren’t many things as devastating as a house fire. Once the fire’s been put out, facing the damage it wreaked can be overwhelming. If the fire department’s involved, you’re likely to find yourself dealing with fire, smoke, and water damage. And the longer it takes to start the fire damage removal process, the greater the opportunity for mold damage to set in, too.
If your Central Florida home has a fire incident, knowing what steps to take can help lessen the stress you experience. Removing all the damage, thoroughly cleaning all surfaces/surrounding areas, and ensuring the rest of the house is free of smoke damage are just a few of the services a fire damage remediation company does.
There are also personal feelings and hands-on considerations you need to deal with. In this post, we’ll briefly talk about the common causes of house fires, then move on to what a fire damage remediation company does and how you can emotionally, as well as practically, prepare for the fire damage removal process.
Common Causes Of House Fires and Fire Damage
They start in an instant and cause considerable damage. Some house fires begin from a homeowner’s carelessness or forgetfulness, but those from things like faulty wiring are mostly out of your control. The most common causes of house fires include:
- Cooking accidents and mishaps – These rank at the top of the list, causing nearly half of all home fires. Fortunately, most of these fires are preventable if you take certain precautions.
- Heating fires – These cause 500 deaths, 1,300 injuries, and over $1 billion in direct property damage each year. Most involve portable space heaters, but failure to clean heating equipment, including chimneys, is also an issue.
- Electrical fires – These are responsible for over a billion dollars in direct property damage every year. Plugs or cords, particularly extension cords, are involved in about 3,500 or one percent of all home fires.
- Smoking-related fires – These are caused by cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. They are responsible for five percent of reported home fires and over 20 percent of home fire deaths, more than any other cause.
- Candle-related fires – These often result from someone falling asleep or forgetting to extinguish a candle before leaving the room, but the majority of fires start because a candle is too close to combustible material.
How to Prepare for the Fire Damage Removal Process
We’ll get into what a fire damage restoration company does a little further on, but here are some tips to help you handle the emotional and practical sides of a fire’s immediate aftermath.
Feel Your Feelings
Saying that experiencing a fire at your Central Florida home is stressful is an understatement. People who have been through it have a difficult time accepting the reality of what’s happened, are overwhelmed with the number of tasks they now face, and are often paralyzed about what to do next. The best thing to do? Take a deep breath. “Simple for you to say” might be your first response, but it’s important to understand that, depending on the extent of the damage, you might be facing a fairly lengthy process.
Right now, you might feel things are out of your control. All you want is to get things back to “normal.” Feelings of sadness and fear are completely understandable. Allow yourself to feel and acknowledge them. Grieve any loss and give yourself time to process what’s happened. Our experience shows us the vast majority of people who experience a house fire do start to feel a sense of control and see their lives get back on track as they get down to the practicalities of dealing with the damage.
Know the Fire Damage Removal Process Takes Time
Feelings of loss of control and fear can make the fire damage removal seem like it’s taking forever. It would be fantastic if you could snap your fingers and have everything done quickly. Though we work hard to help you get your life back as speedily as possible, the truth is the fire damage removal process takes patience and time.
When you understand this from the start, it can help you accept the process and trust everything will go the way it should. Try not to let anxiety over what lies ahead overwhelm you. Stay focused on the daily tasks and make one decision at a time. Know that, eventually, things will be better.
Call Your Insurance Agent
Once you’ve called 911 and the fire’s been put out, your next call should be to your insurance agent who can play a vital role in helping initiate the remediation process. Report the fire and ask what steps you need to take immediately to ensure you get the compensation you’re entitled to. Be sure to ask if you need the authorization to call in professionals to help with the fire damage removal process. You can then call in a restoration company likes ours to get the ball rolling on preventing further damage and returning your Central Florida home to normal.
If firefighters were instrumental in putting out the fire, consider whether you need other remediation services performed as well. For instance, if the fire was small or confined to one area, water remediation services can prevent mold growth. You might also need to board up the property to prevent theft and vandalism. All of these actions, if necessary, could need authorization from your insurance company. Your insurance company will assist you in making a claim. The experienced team at Central Florida Restoration Services can also help you deal with your insurance company or agent.
Secure the Property
Securing your home immediately after a fire is a must. While your homeowner’s policy will likely cover damage caused by the fire, it may not cover further theft or damage. A restoration company can be an invaluable partner in helping you arrange for the boarding up of doors and windows and other openings with plywood and putting tarps over any roof holes, etc.
Find a Safe Place to Stay
Unless the fire was minor, you’ll most likely need to stay somewhere else for at least a few days as inspections are made and your property goes through the fire damage removal process. Plus, smoke, ash, and burnt materials can pose serious health risks. Potentially toxic materials and substances might need to be removed before you can safely live in your home again. The bottom line is a clean house doesn’t equate to a safe one. In most cases, it’s best to find a safe place to stay while invisible air-borne chemical compounds are removed.
Of course, if the fire damage is extensive, you’ll need to find long-term housing. Your insurance company can help with determining what type of temporary housing is available and covered as the fire damage cleaning, restoration, and rebuilding process play out.
Understand the Dangers of Smoke, Ash, and Chemicals
Flames are the most frightening aspect of a fire, but once they’re extinguished, some serious risks remain. The ash, soot, and smoke residue left behind can contain and release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds can be extremely hazardous to you and your family’s long-term health. They can even be lethal if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through your skin. While you may have an immediate reaction, you might not feel any side effects for months or years.
Extreme caution should be the rule when entering your home after a fire. For while there may be no serious structural damage, toxic chemicals may still hang in the air, and they can take a long time to dissipate. Plus, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, if you need to board up your home for security reasons, it could increase air quality risks and pose a danger to your health and life.
Soot and smoke are also highly corrosive, making a thorough cleanup essential. Left unaddressed, they can cause permanent etching, discoloration, and staining. Smoke damages many items in your home as well, including electronic components and appliances, many of which you’ll need to replace.
Finally, smoke and soot’s chemical makeup make it difficult to remove them, as the porous fabrics and materials located throughout your home have thousands of air pockets where smoke and soot can penetrate and stay.
Remove and Discard Potentially Dangerous Items
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face during the fire damage removal process is deciding what you can salvage and what you must throw away. It’s a difficult task that can also be emotionally hard, as many items in your home have sentimental value. In most cases following a fire, you should discard the following items for your and your family’s safety:
- Non-perishable food – Open food containers should immediately be discarded. As this is definitely a case of “better safe than sorry,” sealed food in aluminum cans should also be disposed of, as toxic fumes could contaminate it.
- Perishable food – If food in the fridge smells smoky, or if you notice soot has made its way inside the refrigerator and/or freezer, throw the food out. You should do the same if the fire caused a power loss.
- Medicines and cosmetics – Dangerous chemicals can be absorbed through your skin or ingested if you keep contaminated items. Replace all cosmetics and immediately have prescription medications refilled.
- Burned clothing – Cleaning and disinfection might allow you to retain some smoke-affected clothing, but if anything is burnt or charred, throw it out.
Everyone wants to save money. But never try to save belongings that could in the short or long-term make you sick or expose you to toxins. If in doubt, throw it out! For items you simply can’t bring yourself to part with, talk to the restoration company about what you might be able to do to salvage them.
Handle Debris with Caution
Many homeowner insurance policies cover the cost of having debris removed after a fire. You should ask your insurance agent to see if you are covered for this work. If you want to handle burned or ash and soot-covered items yourself, proceed with caution! They can contain traces of cancer-causing chemicals or carcinogens. Ash often irritates the lungs and skin. Be sure to wear protective clothing, including masks, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and gloves to limit skin contact with any toxic substance. Immediately wash off any soot that gets on your skin. If you decide to vacuum, keep in mind that shop vacs and household vacuum cleaners don’t filter out small particles; only HEPA-filter systems do that.
Call the Right Restoration Company
Once you receive the go-ahead from your insurance company, call a reputable, local restoration company like CFRS to get the fire damage removal process started. We’ll immediately dispatch our emergency response team who will come to your property and assess any fire, smoke, water, and/or mold damage. Once the fire department signals that it’s safe, we can then get started on securing and restoring your home. Make sure whichever restoration company you choose has years of experience in fire damage and confirm they’re licensed, bonded, and insured. Also, check to make sure they have excellent customer reviews and references.
What Happens During the Fire Damage Removal Process
The fire damage removal process consists of removing all damage, thoroughly cleaning surfaces, and ensuring your Central Florida home is free of smoke damage. Steps the restoration company takes can include:
- When necessary, any standing water is pumped out, which initiates drying that can reduce water damage and mold growth.
- Put procedures in place that improve the air quality and ventilation inside your home. Industrial-strength fans and state-of-the-art air scrubbers are often used to remove hazardous air particles from a property and reduce the total amount of smoke damage.
The filters, alkaline cleaning agents, and specialized equipment a professional restoration company has access to are essential to preventing and mitigating additional damage to your home.
Large or small, a house fire is scary. While we hope your home never suffers a catastrophic fire, if it does, we’re here to make the fire damage removal process as stress-free as possible. Over the past 25-plus years, CFRS has helped nearly 1,000 Central Florida homeowners deal with fire damage. We’re also the area’s most trusted resource for water damage, smoke damage, and mold damage, common problems you might need to have handled after a house fire. To learn more about all the home restoration solutions we offer, contact CFRS today.