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Tips for Wildfire Smoke Damage Safety and Soot Cleanup

wildfire smoke damage can be a hazard in the home and require professional cleanup

Wildfire smoke from a nearby fire can cause damage and health hazards in your home, and in commercial and business spaces. The following tips will help you prevent damage from wildfire smoke, evaluate if contamination occurred, and file an insurance claim if needed.

Safety First

If there is an evacuation for your area, always follow those orders. If there is no immediate danger, and evacuation has not commenced, you may be able to take the following steps to help prevent smoke damage. Be sure to follow any posted health advisory statements regarding air quality, and wearing a N95 Particulate Respirator, obtained at most hardware stores, is a good idea if the air is hazy or if ash or smoke odor is present.

Damage Prevention

The following tips will help prevent contamination from wildfire smoke.

  1. Unplug: When possible, unplug any non-essential electronics to keep airborne soot from contaminating the internal components of the units.
  2. Seal the indoor environment: Keep doors and windows closed to prevent smoke from entering the structure. Tape windows and door frames when possible to keep the indoor environment sealed as much as possible. Close fireplace dampers and make sure any window air conditioning units are set to recirculate.
  3. Use an air purifier: If you have a portable air purifier, keep it running as much as possible to help remove airborne particulates.
  4. Change HVAC or furnace filters more frequently: Install filters with higher particulate removal ratings and change them weekly or daily depending on air quality conditions.

Removing Smoke and Soot Contamination

If it’s safe to enter your residence again, these tips will help remove the health hazards from your home. If you notice a lingering smoke smell in your home or on your belongings, the indoor environment has likely been contaminated.

  1. Clarify your insurance coverage: Call your insurance company as soon as possible to understand the specifics of what’s covered by your policy. If there is damage present and a claim needs to be filed, document the following information:
    – Date the damage occurred
    – Type of damage (smoke, fire, water)
    – Location(s) of the damage
    – A remediation estimate from a certified restoration company
    – Receipts for any repairs, restoration services, or other related costs
    – Receipts for any hotels or meals if your home could not be occupied
    – Complete list of all damaged items including clothing, furniture, and valuables
  2. Hire a professional: Smoke and soot contamination on surfaces and belongings are not often visible to an untrained eye. Call a company with specialized training from the IICRC in Fire and Smoke Remediation to conduct a proper assessment.
  3. Protect yourself: If you do clean, keep in mind the indoor environment may not be safe. Make sure you protect yourself with an N95 Respirator and non-permeable gloves before attempting to clean any fire or soot residue.
  4. Check for contamination: Swipe windows with a clean white tissue to assess possible contamination. Light brown or brown dust is indicative of common household dust. Grey or black dust is indicative of smoke or soot contamination, and the area should be handled by professionals to ensure safety. While damage may appear to be cosmetic, soot and ash on clothing, walls and floors leaves a contaminated layer – exposing children and pets to health hazards.
  5. Test before cleaning: Be aware that the damage can be worsened by improper cleaning. Before attempting to clean walls, ceilings or other contents with something like a sponge and soapy water, test a small area first. Using wet cleaning methods on soot from a high-oxygen fire will cause smearing and secondary damage. This indicates the need for professional assistance, with the use of specialized ‘dry cleaning’ sponges. The soot from a low-oxygen fire may respond well to wet-cleaning methods, however it still may require professional thermal fogging of deodorizing agents to follow the same path of smoke contamination and neutralize it.
  6. Dispose any open consumables: If there has been severe smoke damage, throw away any open or exposed food to avoid possible ingestion of toxic carcinogens.

If you need assistance with smoke or soot damage cleanup, Belmont Clean + Restore is available 24 hours a day, with technicians certified for fire and smoke restoration by the IICRC.  They also work with your insurance company to take care of the paperwork for you: (970) 927-1313

Proudly serving Basalt, Carbondale, El Jebel, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Glenwood Springs and the Vail valley in Colorado for over 20 years.

Belmont Clean + Restoration is a family-owned and managed disaster cleanup and restoration company servicing homes and businesses in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley area.

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