If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911. For our emergency fire damage restoration services, contact us at (877) 468-3566.
Fires are scary. They can quickly get out of control, harm people and pets, and leave serious devastation in their paths. The danger of fires is why we have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, sprinklers, fire preparedness plans, escape routes, fire extinguishers, and many other protections. However, even with all the precautions and protections in place, sometimes a building fire still happens. If you’re experiencing the damages left by a house fire, it can be hard to know where to start. For households and businesses in the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, ServiceMaster Recovery by C2C Restoration provides comprehensive disaster restoration services. After the flames are put out and you find a safe place to stay, you can count on us for complete fire damage restoration in Orange County, CA and the surrounding communities.
The combustion of a fire can reach 600 to 800 degrees. Flames can get out of control in as little as 30 seconds. Smoke and toxic gases from a house fire are more deadly than the flames themselves, making asphyxiation the leading cause of deaths in fires. These facts and much more make fires one of the most terrifying disasters that can happen to your home. Not only does fire happen the fastest and pose the most immediate threats to your safety, it also has some of the longest lasting damaging effects compared to other types of building damage. The long-term effects of a building fire that hasn’t been restored properly are those of soot and smoke.
A significant part of our fire damage restoration services includes complete smoke damage remediation and soot removal. Soot and smoke are both acidic, carcinogenic, and pose continued building damage issues and health risks. Even with full restoration of a building structure and the burned items inside, without soot and smoke removal, that repair work is almost useless.
What is Soot?
Soot is the result of incomplete hydrocarbon combustion. Soot particles are impure carbons that become airborne contaminants. These contaminants can pass through filtration systems to settle on surfaces, sink into fabrics, etch metal, glass, and ceramics, and fully permeate the air quality of indoor spaces. Not only does soot compromise the air quality in your home, it also leaves foul odors and poses health risks. Exposure over time to residual soot and smoke will increase your risk of asthma, bronchitis, severe respiratory illnesses, and even lung cancer.
In addition to these serious health risks, soot is harmful to the environment. As soot is tracked out of your building and spreads through the air, it impacts local air quality and ecosystems. The majority of soot particles are 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter. Most homes have filtration systems with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERVs) of 10-13, which means they can catch 1.0 to 3.0-micron particle diameters with about a 65-90% efficiency. While this is relatively effective, it’s a broad range that’s measured with essentially brand-new filters that aren’t compromised in any way. Most homes have older filters that may also have been damaged by a fire and not replaced.
Because of the potential that your HVAC and air filtration systems will not be able to cope with smoke and soot residue, those systems might even contribute to worsening your air quality. In addition to health risks, soot is an acidic and oily material. The pH level of soot is generally around 4, far below the neutral 7. The lower the pH level, the more acidic a material. With a pH of 4, soot will eat away at vulnerable building materials and damage wood, paper, paint, drywall, and other porous surfaces. It will also etch, discolor, and corrode materials including glass, ceramics, and metals.
The only way to effectively reduce exposure to these harmful residuals after a house fire is to get the help of a professional smoke and soot remediation service.
Dry and Wet Smoke
When a fire rages through a building, there are many different types of materials that will burn. Synthetics, chemicals, building materials, and natural items like wood and paper will all burn in varying ways. These different kinds of combustions leave behind different kinds of smoke and soot, categorized as “dry” or “wet.”
Dry smoke and soot are the result of incomplete combustion of mostly natural or fast-burning materials. Paper, wood, fabric, and other materials that burn hot and fast create dry smoke and soot. Dry smoke residue is fine and powdery. It’s much more likely to sink into porous materials and pass easily through air filters. Dry smoke and soot residue is a light gray ashen color and easier to clean from non-porous surfaces. This residue is what you often see in fireplaces and campfires.
Wet smoke comes from the burning of synthetic or other slow combustion materials. Typically, wet smoke is the result of rubber, plastics, oil-based substances, fossil fuels, and more. It can also be residue from metals corroded in the flames. Wet smoke is greasy, sticky, and difficult to clean from surfaces. It will also significantly damage porous materials like fabrics, upholstery, drywall, and paint. Wet smoke residue from burned synthetics is extremely toxic to your health and the environment. While all smoke and soot residues are carcinogenic, burned synthetics can introduce dioxins, benzo(a)pyrene (BAP), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and other cancer-causing gases.
Another type of smoke and soot residue that will damage your health and building is the result of incomplete protein combustion. Protein soot is actually already in most kitchens. Whenever you cook proteins and those particles burn, a yellowish-brown residue gets deposited on cooking grates, stove tops, ovens, vents, and nearby kitchen surfaces. That residue is oilier, greasier, and more difficult to clean than any other soot. When a house fire burns multiple kinds of proteins, the soot and smoke residue left behind requires professional cleaning practices and specialized solutions for full removal. While protein residue is sometimes invisible, you can identify it by its strong, acrid odor.
Our restoration and soot removal services remediate all types of residuals, including dry, wet, and protein particles left behind after a fire.
Effects of Soot
We’ve mentioned the damage that soot and smoke can do to your long-term health and building integrity, but let's talk more about the immediate effects of fire residuals. Soot is carcinogenic, so long-term exposure can lead to cancer and other serious conditions. Immediate health effects, however, include skin and eye irritation.
Soot particle sizes are so small they can’t be seen except in large accumulations, but you’ll know when your eyes are exposed to those tiny residuals. Itchy, red, swollen, and generally irritated eyes are a sign that you might have invisible smoke and soot in the air. Thanks to the acidic and toxic qualities of soot and smoke, it can also be a severe skin irritant. If you are experiencing rashes, itchy skin, burning, or other symptoms of skin irritation after a fire, seek medical attention. It could also be a sign that soot and smoke have permeated your clothing, bedclothes, furniture, and other porous materials that you interact with daily. Our restoration services treat all your belongings and interiors to remove soot, smoke, and residuals and return them to pre-loss conditions.
Removal and Deodorization
Soot and smoke are difficult to remove on your own because they require specialized cleaning solutions that aren’t available to non-professionals. In order to prevent further damage from soot and smoke, you should take advantage of the knowledge and experience our trained technicians have and the specialized equipment, techniques, and solutions they utilize to treat fire residuals with dry and wet cleaning technology.
The majority of our soot and smoke removal techniques utilize chemical and other dry-cleaning treatments. We’ve developed chemical treatments for removing surface-level soot and smoke from non-porous materials like stone, tile, glass, vinyl, metal, and more, but we also have fully effective methods to dry clean and remove residuals from permeable materials. This includes upholstery, wood, drywall, paint, fabric, plastics, and much more. To quickly remove soot and dirt from interior and exterior surfaces, we use dry ice blasting technology.
Our team will pack-out all your belongings and restore them off-site at a secure location while the process of restoring your building takes place. We guarantee the recovery of all damaged goods, or their replacement if they are too severely damaged to salvage.
Dry chemical soot removal is the most effective way to fully deodorize the sour and acrid smells associated with all types of soot and ash, and it’s the fastest and most reliable way to completely remove harmful, acidic residue.
While dry cleaning is highly effective for the majority of soot and smoke removal processes, there is a use for some wet cleaning tactics. Typically, wet cleaning is most effective on fabrics and other very porous materials. We use cleaning equipment designed specifically for soot and smoke removal from soft objects, fabric, and similar items. This equipment passes heated water with cleaning solutions through the permeable material and pulls the contaminated water with soot and smoke residue back into a waste tank in a single cycle.
We also use negative air flow and high-performance filtration systems to fully decontaminate all the air in your building. This process removes soot and smoke from your HVAC and ventilation systems, ducts, and all spaces. Our air contaminant removal is the most important step for returning your air quality to sanitary conditions and deodorizing your home.
Fire Damage Restoration
To learn more about the dangers of soot and smoke and our services for full fire damage restoration in Orange County, CA and the surrounding areas, contact ServiceMaster Recovery by C2C Restoration at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our fast response LA line: (323) 851-5543. For emergencies, contact us at (877) 468-3566.