It seems each year, there have been record wildfires in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and many others. Unless you’ve encountered a fire before, it’s hard to comprehend how much destruction it can cause. Even a small wildfire can spread quickly and lead to a tremendous amount of damage in just a matter of minutes. Along with coping with property damage, the loss of irreplaceable possessions, or even your entire home, you will also have to deal with the massive mess the wildfire has left behind. Before you begin the cleanup process, there are a few essential things to take note of:
Process Your Feelings
Experiencing a fire can be traumatic. Depending on the magnitude, you will need to come to terms with what is damaged or completely lost. It’s normal to feel hugely overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, lean on friends and family, and let yourself go through the motions. Know that as long as you and your family are safe, this is what’s most important.
Take it Day By Day
Know that the cleanup can be a lengthy process. For everything to be fixed, replaced, clean, and safe, it’s going to take time. Once you’ve accepted this, now it’s important not to feel completely stressed out. Easier said than done, we know. Try to set out daily achievable tasks that you can focus on rather than be overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
Call Your Insurance Company
After you call the fire department, you’ll need to call your insurance company. Inform them of the circumstances and ask them what steps you need to take next. Your insurance company may need to give authorization before you can hire a property restoration company. The sooner they are informed, the faster you can get help from a restoration company.
Hire a Restoration Company
Cleaning up the aftermath of a wildfire is something nobody should have to do. First of all, it’s not safe, and secondly, if not done correctly, it can lead to a whole host of other problems down the road. The soot left behind from a wildfire can be toxic, you will need a professional to help you navigate what can be kept and what needs to be disposed of (and proper disposal of toxic items is important). You will need the guidance of a wildfire restoration team to help you navigate through the right steps in the right order. Leave fire damage restoration to the professionals, and this way, you can focus on the wellbeing of yourself and your family. As soon as you receive authorization from your insurance company, call a reputable restoration company such as Restoration 1. Once you contact us, our team of trained and certified technicians will arrive at your property in under an hour. Our goal is to get you back to your normal as quickly as possible and our team is available 24/7.
Secure Your Home
If the doors and windows are damaged by the fire or by the firefighters, you will need to board up the property to prevent theft and vandalism. Securing your property will also help prevent anyone from entering the property when it may not be safe to do so. At Restoration 1, we can help you secure any damaged doors to make sure they are secure.
Find a Place to Stay
Wildfires are a disaster where assistance is needed from the community. There are many resources out there including FEMA and The Red Cross, but you may be able to find help more local to you. If you have been impacted by a wildfire and are dealing with the cleanup from wildfire damage, you will need to find somewhere to stay for a couple of days. Even small fires need to be inspected by the fire department, and the property will need to be thoroughly cleaned, and the air quality checked. Of course, if the fire caused significant damage, a long-term housing situation will need to be found. Your insurance company can help arrange temporary housing on your behalf.
Take Care of Your Pets
If you have pets, you’ll have to take them with you or put them in a temporary boarding facility. Whenever you return to the property, it’s essential not to bring your pets. The burned debris and the chemicals released into the air during combustion are very dangerous to both people and animals. Above all, you want to prevent your pets from being exposed to any potential health risks.
Be Aware of Unseen Dangers
Initially, when you think of the dangers of a fire, red hot flames and billowing black smoke come to mind, right? Of course, these are extremely dangerous, but there are less obvious elements that can be just as dangerous too. When non-organic materials burn, they release toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be extremely hazardous to your health and can even be lethal if ingested or inhaled, or absorbed by the skin. Often, these toxins’ side effects are felt immediately, but sometimes they don’t appear for months or even years.
No Visible Contamination
Often, upon inspection, no soot or ash seems to be present. There may be a strong smoke odor but no visible contaminants. As a result, you or the property owner may feel the need to simply clean the surfaces and carpets. A restoration company can properly test walls and other surfaces with a dry cleaning sponge and see how much contamination there really is. If ‘unseen’ contamination is rife, the rooms will need a thorough cleaning of the walls, ceilings, HVAC, cabinetry, windows, and most likely, the attic space.
Wear Protective Gear
Leading us to the next point, when you pick up or move debris or damaged contents from your home or property, these compounds and toxins are released back into the air and can cling to your skin and clothes. Therefore, you or anyone entering the property must wear protective gloves, masks, and clothing. This is another important reason to leave this to a professional team such as Restoration 1. Because these toxins are microscopic, they can travel easily through the lungs and into the bloodstream, which can be life-threatening. Keeping yourself and others hydrated is also crucial, as the air is extra dry after a fire. Be sure to have set breaks to eat something and rest.
Throw Out Electronics
Did you know that further damage happens through soot residue and smoke after the fire is extinguished? This is one of the reasons that a thorough cleanup by a reputable restoration company is so important. Permanent staining and discoloration happen if soot and smoke remain on certain items following a fire. Smoke also damages electronic appliances and equipment and these will need to be replaced even if they seem to be working. The chemicals accumulate on the electronic circuits, meaning they are likely to create a short-circuit.
And Other Things Too
The tricky thing about smoke and soot is that it can penetrate various porous materials, making them very difficult to remove completely. Some clothing, textiles, and bedding can be salvaged with proper disinfection. But if anything is burnt or charred, throw it out. Don’t try to save belongings that could expose you to soot or toxins and make you or your family sick. Restoration 1 can help with any questions if you aren’t sure if you should salvage or toss a particular item.
Discard Food and Medicine
When it comes to food items, medical supplies, and toiletries, it’s a good idea to throw most things out as dangerous chemicals can be ingested or be absorbed through your skin if you keep and use contaminated items.
Here are a few rules of thumb to take note of:
- Non-Perishable Food: All open food containers in your pantry need to be discarded. Even canned goods may be contaminated by toxic fumes.
- Perishable Food: Throw out any food that was in a refrigerator if it smells smoky or if you see soot has penetrated the fridge.
- Medical Supplies and Toiletries: Throw out makeup, medicine, and products that have any signs of soot, smoke damage, or fire extinguisher powder.
Consider Outside Contamination
Depending on the damage, sometimes the outside of your home can be even more contaminated than the inside. Areas like driveways, sidewalks, and exterior walls should be amongst the first things cleaned so that you don’t re-contaminate the inside of your house when walking back inside. Usually, the most foolproof way to do this is by getting a restoration company to power wash the structure and cement. Surrounding burnt and charred landscaping will also have to be removed.
Contact Restoration 1 Today
If you find yourself facing fire damage, contact your nearest Restoration 1 branch as soon as possible. We promise to do everything in our power to make the situation less stressful for you and your family. Restoration 1 can help get your home back to its pre-damaged state as quickly and efficiently as possible. Trust our trained and certified professionals to help you during this difficult time. Click here to find a wildfire cleanup professional near you.