This is one of many articles we have posted to help the public in how to effectively handle a fire mitigation loss. ServiceMaster, The Master of Disaster in Mobile, AL has posted a series of these articles on our web site: http://www.servicemastermobilealabama.com. If you need help, please call us at (251) 653-9333 or (251) 928-1028 in Mobile or Baldwin County. We would be honored to serve you.
Understanding the Chemistry of Fire
The chemistry of fire is a series of complex reactions, sometimes involving well over 100 chemical elements. The many different substances that can fuel a fire and the different resulting chemical reactions that take place mean that fires may be very different in their cause, their composition and their waste. Mitigation professionals must understand the chemistry of fire in order to react appropriately and to effectively restore the area.
Fires are classified into two groups: Simple and complex. Simple fires result in complete combustion and are usually fueled by a relatively pure fuel, producing no soot and only small amounts of gasses, fumes and smoke. Complex fires, on the other half, are the result of incomplete combustion and are fueled by many materials, including those found in toys, carpets, furniture, clothing, plumbing, and bathroom equipment. As complex fires cause the most damage and leave the most waste, they are usually those handled by disaster restoration professionals like ServiceMaster Clean.
Acids Cause Permanent Damage
In a complex fire, the acid gasses combine with heat and water vapor and penetrate cracks and crevices, when the surfaces cool. The gasses from highly corrosive solutions.
These solutions can permanently etch and stain many sensitive surfaces including machinery and tools, precision instruments, ad household appliances, plus marble, glass and aluminum surfaces. In addition, salts are produced when acids mix with metal and can cause further damage to a metal surface, like the corrosion on cars from salty snow and ice treatments.
Another common product of fire is soot, which is comprised of carbon and other materials, that are completely burned or oxidized. Some soot particles are dry and can be vacuumed effectively, but most are combined with grease and oils and cannot be vacuumed, These situations require an alkaline solution that reacts with the oil or grease and releases particles, creating a water soluble product that can be washed away with water.
Other soot deposits depending on their chemical make-up and the surface on which they rest, may demand physical removal with a putty knife or similar instrument.
Even though the chemistry of fires may vary, the most important thing is to dry out the area as soon as possible to avoid further damage caused by acids and contaminants. A careful consideration of the materials and surfaces affected will them provide an understanding of the fire’s chemistry and allow for a targeted and informed restoration effort.
Fire Prevention Tactics
Fires can begin anywhere, but two areas in your home pose the biggest fire threat- the kitchen and the garage. You can reduce your risk of fire in these vulnerable places with the following precautions:
- Use only UL-listed (Underwriter’s Laboratory) or FM (Factory Mutual) approved appliances and tools.
- Check regularly for frayed or worn power cords or plugs and replace them immediately.
- Don’t operate appliances, switches or outlets with wet hands.
- Never plug in more appliance than a socket is designed to handle.
- Don’t store flammable items near the stove.
- Turn pot handles inward so that children do not pull them down.
- Keep fire extinguisher on a wall near the stove.
- Keep areas around the stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers clean to prevent dust particles from igniting.
- Keep trash and other items away from the furnace or water heater, preferable stored in sealed containers.
- Check heating equipment annually.
- Store gasoline and other flammables in metal containers, away from the house- never near heating equipment or pilot light.
Do’s & Don’ts
In the event that smoke and fire do invade your home, it is important to take the appropriate action to prevent further damage. Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts to aid in the restoration process.
- Blow off, brush or vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes and carpets.
- Cover carpeted traffic areas with towels or old linens to prevent additional soiling.
- Discard open food packages. The food could be contaminated.
- If electrical service is turned off, clean out your refrigerator and freezer. Leave the doors propped open or place charcoal in the unit.
- Send clothing with heavy smoke damage to a qualified professional dry cleaner.
- Clean Formica and chrome fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom to prevent [permanent tarnishing.
- Wipe residue from porcelain bath fixtures to prevent etching.
- Wipe the leaves of houseplants to remove smoke residue.
- Change the air filter on your furnace if it uses forced hot air.
- Tape cheesecloth over intake and outlet air registers to capture any loose soot in the air. This is even more effective if the cheesecloth is damp.
- If the outside temperature is above 60 degrees, air out the house to reduce smoke odor.
- Don not attempt to wash any papered or flat painted walls without consulting your professional cleaner. Incorrect cleaning procedures could compound the soot residue problem.
- Do not attempt to clean carpets or upholstered furniture. Again, incorrect procedure could increase damage.
- Do not use electrical appliances that have been close to fire or water before having them checked. They could malfunction.
- Do not use ceiling fixtures id the ceiling is wet. A short could result.
- Do not touch anything. Soot on your hands can permeate upholstery, walls and woodwork, causing further damage.
- Do not eat food that has been exposed to fire or smoke.
- Do not wait to call for professional help.
- The little known secret in the insurance industry is that you have a choice in contractors should you experience damage to your home. It is not your insurance agent's choice. It is not your insurance adjuster's choice. It is not your insurance company's choice. It is your choice who enters your home and performs repairs for you.
ServiceMaster Advanced Cleaning and Restoration is an approved vendor for virtually all of the insurance companies that operate in our regional area. At one time or another, over nearly 30 years, we have worked with virtually every insurance company that has ever written a policy here. In fact, many of them recommend us because we have been pre-qualified to work for them, meaning we are on their mitigation "program". This means that we have met their standards with regard to insurance, training, procedures etc. and that they are comfortable dispatching a claim to us, if the homeowner agrees. This is the important stipulation. The homeowner must agree and contract directly with us.
ServiceMaster Advanced is one of a small handful of companies locally that are approved as such. We appreciate the business that the insurance programs send to us; however out of the few that are approved as such, we want to stand alone as the best. We want to earn your business be deserving of your trust, not only, because the insurance company recommended us, but because our reputation and policies are such that you would have hired us anyway. We want to stand alone out of all of the recommended companies, that you will tell your insurance agent, company or adjuster that you want ServiceMaster Advanced Cleaning, Enterprise number 7027, (251) 653-9333, to service your home or business. "We would be honored to serve you."