My Home Has Been Affected By Wildfire Smoke: What Do I Do Now?
Fire season is here. This year is predicted to be the worst fire year due to the ongoing drought all over California. Currently, fires such as the McKinney and Oak fires are burning and although some containment is being made, there’s always a chance for more damage to spread. Now is the time to research and ask questions about what to do when your home has been affected by a wildfire. Whether by smoke or direct burning, any damage can put a lot of strain on you as you try to sort out what is the best course of action.
Not all hope is lost; there are some things to consider during a wildfire that can make the process of getting your home back in order a lot easier. Take a look at these common questions and general advice we have gathered from our years of experience with wildfire damage:
Still smoke in the air where you live?
Make sure your home is closed up during a wildfire, even if the fire is miles away. Smoke travels and permeates into homes and vehicles, causing a strong and sometimes toxic odor. Closing up windows, fireplaces, vents and any drafts in your home can prevent heavy smoke odor and soot. It is recommended to perform this task when an evacuation warning has been issued.
Is the air no longer filled with smoke?
This is the time to open up your home so you can start to air out, lessening the smoke odor. Depending on how long your home has been closed up, the air may also be stagnant which also adds to the odor. However, fans should not be used because any smoke or soot could spread to the rest of your home.
What about my textiles, insulation and ducting?
Textiles, such as clothing, furniture, carpet or anything made of these materials, must be handled as delicately as possible. The longer smoke sits on these items, the harder smoke odor is to remove. Soot can also become more embedded in carpet and upholstery if there is constant foot traffic or movement/use of furniture. Many homeowners become anxious after a wildfire and upon returning, they want to clean their smoke and soot-filled home right away. We urge you to proceed with caution. While we understand you need to enter your home to gather items such as valuables, documents and perhaps medication or medical equipment, you also risk inhaling toxic particles and further damaging your home with too much movement.
Insulation is always recommended for removal and replacement. Although we strive to restore as much as possible, smoke filled insulation is too much of a risk for a healthy home. Wildfire ash tend to settle in attics, so insulation must be removed to thoroughly complete the cleanup process. Central heating and air should never be turned on after a home has been filled with smoke, even from the outside. Smoke odor and particles will sift through your entire home and may end up in a room that was previously unaffected. We recommend a professional duct cleaning before central heating and air use.
When should I contact my insurance company and West Coast Fire & Water?
Once the fire is out, call your homeowners insurance company. Most companies pay for fire damage, even wildfires, and smoke damage. Typically, payouts are fast so you can schedule repairs as soon as possible. Most insurance companies, however, need verification of damage such as an on site inspection or photos. West Coast Fire & Water can be on site as soon as local fire departments and other agencies deem areas safe for re-entry or repopulation.
During this time, it’s important to remember you are not alone during a wildfire damage catastrophe. There are many homeowners and business owners making calls as well to schedule insurance and repair inspections. Depending on the damage, some homes may take a long time for repairs. We encourage you to remain patient during this time of crisis; everyone, including those at West Coast Fire & Water, is doing their absolute best to get your fire or smoke damaged home back in a livable, healthy condition.