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Understanding fire damage cleaning

29 November 2016

Ideal Response takes us through the clean-up process in the event of a fire

As winter approaches, fires are being stoked and boilers are kicked into action. Although the overall trend in the UK is a decrease in fire-related fatalities, 2015/2016 saw an increase from 264 to 303 individuals losing life to fire. 2015/2016 also saw a 5% increase in fires attended by emergency services compared to the previous year. Occurrences of more serious (primary) fires increased for the first time in 14 years, rising by 3% from the previous year. 

In the event of a fire, the impact of secondary damage can depend on what happens next. A rapid response and efficient, effective remediation will prevent unnecessary damage and minimise costs. 

Secondary damage from fire comes in various forms: 

  • Acidic soot and smoke particles, often propelled under intense pressure, infiltrate every surface and cause corrosion. 
  • Hazardous substances formed during combustion create a toxic environment.
  • The process of extinguishing the fire will cause damage including water damage. 
  • Fire damaged property becomes open to the elements until properly sealed.

Each fire is unique and the damage it causes needs to be dealt with appropriate knowledge and experience to bring about the best possible results. Immediately after a fire, the emergency services will advise property owners on the safety of the building. What happens next will influence the success of the clean-up. Optimally, prior research will have identified a reputable and experienced fire remediation provider, the quicker they are alerted, the quicker they can begin the remediation process. 

Fast response

While you await their arrival, the primary concern is health and safety. PPE should be worn, including gloves and masks, and no food or drink should be consumed in case it has potentially been contaminated. Switch off all utility supplies and secure the property. Try to locate important documents and remove items of value from the property if it is safe to do so. Create a list of items that have been damaged or destroyed. 

Step one is a rapid response from your carefully chosen fire remediation company. Step two is the immediate assessment of property to ascertain exactly what can be salvaged. Step three is the techniques chosen to remediate the damage. Correct handling and treatment results in property being saved, a quicker recovery and reduced costs.

Call in the right experts

The remediation process requires a scientific understanding of materials, substances, combustion and the chemical reactions that take place. Technicians from an accredited remediation company will recognise and understand the signs left by different types of combustion and know the techniques required to deal with damage. In the case of incomplete combustion, products will include soot and carbon monoxide gas. More soot will be produced from combustion of plastics than combustion of wood. Depending on the reactants (fuel) of the fire, the fire will burn at differing rates and the products could be toxic and/or hazardous to the environment. 

Categorise the damage

An important consideration is categorisation of damage and prioritisation of its urgency for remediation. A fire damaged item that is of value yet salvageable should be given high priority in the remediation process. Items in this category should be dealt with immediately as deterioration, discolouration and disintegration start within 24 hours. Within days mould appears, rust/corrosion processes begin and staining becomes permanent. Within two weeks, mould and mildew will have infiltrated materials, while etching, pitting and corrosion cause permanent damage.

Smoke can cause significant damage to a property and its distribution during a fire will depend on temperature and pressure, weather conditions, the design of the building and design of its HVAC system. Not all fire damage is visible, for example, latent heat damage to ceramic materials or chlorine residues left on surfaces can cause permanent damage that isn’t immediately obvious. As with all secondary damage, remediation should involve complete removal of soot and smoke throughout the property to halt secondary damage. 

An accredited and professional fire remediation company will be equipped to detect and test for all types of fire damage and then deal with each type effectively. The take-home message is to choose the right remediation provider and to act fast. 

For more information please visit: https://www.idealresponse.co.uk/fire-smoke-damage-cleanup/