Fire, Wild Fire, Smoke, and Soot Home Damage Assessment
Recent years have seen an increasing frequency and intensity of wild fire activity throughout many states in the US, and many countries in the world. These fires can be devastating, killing people and animals, destroying homes and lives, and displacing those who are lucky enough to survive. Fortunately, they are often brought under control within a reasonably short time frame, thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters and other first responders.
Still, this can leave many people who live near the fire-scarred, mentally and emotionally. It can leave them unable to return to their homes due to the devastation to local infrastructure and public services. But fires also cause damage in another, more subtle way, one that can lead to long-term negative health and other consequences, for people who may not even live anywhere near an actual fire or burn area. The culprit: smoke and soot.
Sources of Home Smoke and Soot Hazards
On a regular basis, all of our homes, offices, and other buildings and places are subject to various natural sources of smoke and soot – industrial pollution, engine exhaust, and so on. These levels vary from region to region, with some places having a much lower “normal” than others. But in the vast majority of places, this normal level is tolerable, and does not cause noticeable build-up in homes, or appreciable negative health effects for most individuals.
In the aftermath of a fire, however, smoke and soot in the air can increase by many hundreds or thousands of percentage points over the “normal” levels. The smoke, soot, and other fine particulates can accumulate on surfaces in and around the home, in ventilation systems, windows, fans, and so on. This can occur in any area, or in any kind of building, cars, and even outdoor spaces (though obviously, it’s less of a problem in the outdoor, open-air environs than in an enclosed area like a home).
Who Is At Risk?
What’s amazing about the smoke and soot hazards is that it can have an impact on people who aren’t necessarily anywhere near the fire location. On a small scale, a single house fire may cause increased soot and smoke within a small local area, such as to adjacent houses or within a neighborhood. By comparison, wild fires can spread soot and smoke for miles – even tens of miles or over a hundred miles in some cases. This means people even hours away from the source of a wild fire can still suffer from smoke and soot hazards in the home, in addition to poor air quality and trouble breathing during the immediate aftermath of the fire event.
Indeed, during the most recent wild fire in northern California, the Camp Fire, smoke, soot, and ash were found falling in the San Francisco Bay area, over 130 miles away from the fire’s source. The air quality became so bad that school was cancelled, and residents were advised avoid outdoor activity or exposure if at all possible. This means anyone within a fairly large radius of wild fire events is susceptible and at risk of smoke and soot damage threats to their home.
Smoke and soot damage can cause obvious aesthetic consequences – a buildup of dirty carbon particles on surfaces in the home, in air filters, ventilation equipment, and so forth – discoloring paint, damaging surfaces, and otherwise being a nuisance. But the negative health consequences are far more serious. The fine particles that make up smoke and soot accumulation can easily be inhaled, especially over the long term, leading to breathing problems that can develop years later in many cases. It can also increase the risk, both in the short term and long term, for health problems as varied as pneumonia, COPD, stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer.
Carbon particles aren’t the only thing that can be included in fire smoke or wild fire smoke, either. Chemicals and toxins from combusted materials are often part and parcel of the smoke. Both natural and artificial sources of radioactive particles are also thrown up into the air as part of the smoke, and accumulate in the smoke and soot residue in homes. In the most recent Camp Fire, the levels of harmful gamma radiation in the San Francisco Bay area, 130+ miles away from the fire, doubled from a normal background. Condensed into a home, and breathed into the lungs or otherwise in proximity to the body can increase the risk of genetic damage that, over the long term, can lead to a greater risk of cancer development.
How Assessments Can Help
Fortunately, both those who live near a fire or wild fire, and those who may live far away but still see the effects, can all benefit from smoke and soot home damage assessments. Professionals in these fields can evaluate any accumulated dust, dirt, smoke, and soot buildup in a home, and whether or not it poses a hazard. In the case that it does, they can offer remediation and restoration services, or advise customers on how to clean and remove the residue. This is especially important when it comes to ventilation system vents, intakes, filters, fans, and so on. Having a smoke and soot home damage assessment can also provide peace of mind, ensuring you that your home is safe to repopulate (if you were in an evacuation area), and not contaminated or putting your family at risk of developing health problems down the road. Living through a disaster, even at a distance, is bad enough – you don’t need to compound the problem with smoke and soot hazards in the home.
As we’ve demonstrated, smoke and soot particles can travel quite a long way from the source of a wild fire, and cause long-term negative consequences to human health. A quick, cost-effective assessment from a professional company can identify any problems and help you remove them, or assure you that there are no problems and you’re good to go. Your health, and the health of your friends, family, and loved ones, will thank you for the small time and money investment!