Recent Fire Damage Posts

Top 3 Fire Damage Safety Tips

12/13/2019 (Permalink)

Space heater by window Make sure your heating equipment is in working order and has been inspected before you start to use it.

As weather starts to change, so should your fire safety considerations in your Annandale or Falls Church home. Preventing fires is important all year long, and focusing on the appropriate fire safety tips for the season can make your efforts more worthwhile.  Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as the temperature gets cooler and the leaves start to fall.

1. Candle Safety- You might be tempted to start bringing out your favorite fall scented candles soon. There’s just something about a beautiful, fragrant candle that feels comforting on a fall day. Candles come with their own safety considerations, however. Keep candles 12 inches away from anything that can burn and blow out candles when you are leaving the room. Never use a candle if there is oxygen being used in your home for medical purposes; electric candles are a safer option.

2. Heating equipment- Make sure your heating equipment is in working order and has been inspected before you start to use it. Since this equipment has been out of use for the last several months, it’s important that you follow the appropriate steps to make sure the unit is clean and functioning properly. If you use space heaters, make sure that they are surrounded by three feet of empty space and that they are turned off when you leave the house or go to bed.

3. Chimney inspection- if you have a usable fireplace, it’s essential to make sure that it is cleaned and inspected before you start using it to prevent built up creosote from previous fires. Cozying up next to a beautiful fire might be a quintessential part of your fall, but make sure that you do so as safely as possible. Also, consider using a screen to prevent sparks from igniting a fire somewhere in your home.

Methods of Fire Restoration

12/13/2019 (Permalink)

food on fire Team SERVPRO® Uses Appropriate Cleaning Methods When Dealing with Soot and Other Damage After a Fire.

Team SERVPRO® Uses Appropriate Cleaning Methods When Dealing with Soot and Other Damage After a Fire.

After a fire damage incident, the smoke particles that move around the structure can negatively impact ceilings and walls in many ways. To prevent permanent or further damage, you need to take immediate action, and it is not advisable to do the cleaning by yourself. Not all fire events are the same, and that calls for professional help to determine the most suitable restoration procedures for your property. 

Specific factors guide our SERVPRO® technicians when selecting the most appropriate technique after a fire damage incident. For instance, if we are cleaning walls and ceilings, we look at the type of smoke residues, the nature of the surface, and whether the area is dry cleanable or wet cleanable. Peroxide active cleaning, wet cleaning, and dry cleaning are the primary cleaning methods that we use. 

Our SERVPRO® technicians use dry cleaning when cleaning surfaces that have non-oily smoke residues. In this method, we use a dry clean sponge to do the job, and it is among the initial steps that we perform before extensive cleaning starts. If we need to remove light to heavy smoke residues from wooden, metal, and painted ceilings, then wet cleaning is an option. 

Peroxide active cleaning is a suitable method for cleaning greasy particles that are on acoustical ceilings and other forms of nonporous and porous ceilings. We prefer this method when there are chances of dissolving the coating on textured ceilings through aggressive wet cleaning methods. The method also preserves the appearance of blown tiles. 

When our SERVPRO® technicians are dry cleaning your property, we usually start by cleaning the ceilings before moving to the walls to avoid introducing dirt to clean areas. To avoid streaking the walls with the cleaning solution during wet cleaning, we start by cleaning the walls and then move to the ceilings. We also clean walls from the bottom to the top when performing wet cleaning. 

5 Simple Tips to Avoid Christmas Tree Fires

12/13/2019 (Permalink)

tree on fire When Christmas trees burn, many go up in flames in seconds.

Most house fires happen during the holidays and Christmas trees are one of the most common reasons. Christmas trees looks so elegant with the strings of lights and an electric tree topper of some kind. When Christmas trees burn, many go up in flames in seconds.

Some Holiday Fire Facts:

  • One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • Christmas tree fires are more likely to be serious, resulting in death once in every 31 occurrences (compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires).
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes 25% of all Christmas tree fires.

Here are 5 safety tips to avoid tree fires:

  • Water your tree every day or at least every other day.
  • Keep your tree away from any heating elements like a portable space heater or a radiator.
  • Check your tree lights to make sure they are not frayed or damaged.
  • Make sure all electrical items are plugged into a surge protector as an extra precaution.
  • Make an escape plan for your family so you are prepared in case of emergencies.

Fire Place and Chimney Safety

12/13/2019 (Permalink)

fire place Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Gather round the hearth. Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don't have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flue just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Keep the humidifier humming. 

You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

Here's how: First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off gas problems. 

Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

Here's how: First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer's advice for any other needed maintenance.

Burned Turkeys Happen... Home Damage Doesn't Have To!

12/13/2019 (Permalink)

woman looking at turkey Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year in which home fires occur.

While Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, filled with food, family and football, there is another attribute that may surprise you.   According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year in which home fires occur.  In 2016, U.S. Fire Departments reported a total of 1,500 home fires on Thanksgiving Day, with Christmas Day coming in as a close second.

In order to avoid any potential fire damage or injury, browse these simple guidelines to ensure you have a safe holiday season.

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking, even a quick step away can lead to an accident.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently. 
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot, and kids should stay 3 feet away. 
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns. 
  • Wear protective gear when using indoor fryers.
  • Ensure floor and kitchen area is clear of clutter and kiddos, so you don't accidentally trip.
  • Keep a lid and fire extinguisher nearby to smother cooking fires.
  • Avoid the use of outdoor, gas-fueled turkey fryers, especially indoors or in the garage area.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.
  • Fire Damage Follow Up

    12/13/2019 (Permalink)

    burnt room It’s absolutely critical that you take the first steps to save your home and valuables.

    The first few days following a fire are often the most emotional for families and individuals—but they are the most important! As soon as the fire is extinguished, the time immediately begins to work against you. It’s absolutely critical that you take the first steps to save your home and valuables.

    What you shouldn’t do when your home is damaged by a fire is clear: do not waste time, and do not attempt the clean-up and restoration on your own.

    Experienced Professionals Should Begin Fire Restoration Work Within Two Days

    Cleaning up from fire damage and beginning restoration isn’t as simple as opening the windows and scrubbing the walls. There could be unseen damage that poses a safety risk to anyone entering the home. The air could be unhealthy for breathing, and mold may begin to grow.

    It’s very important to call in a professional restoration team within two days of the incident. That’s why our team is on call 24/7 to receive new requests to respond immediately.

    THE MORE TIME THAT ELAPSES AFTER A FIRE, THE MORE LIKELY IT IS THAT FURTHER DAMAGE CAN BE DONE TO THE STRUCTURE OF THE HOME.

    The soot and smoke that lingers after the fire can continue to degrade the structural integrity and more corrosion is possible. For proper, full restoration and repair, it’s important to start the process within the two-day window. If it’s been more than two days, we can still fight to save your property and belongings.

    Professionals Bring Advanced Equipment & Experience For Fire Cleanup & Repair

    Some homeowners may think a simple Google search and some sponges will do the trick. What they don’t know is that behind the walls, in the attic, and even in the foundation of the home there could be damage that may lead to a collapse.

    It’s important to call in professionals to do the job right. Fire cleanup, restoration, and repair require advanced equipment and experience to avoid injury and further damage.

    To clean the air, we use special dehumidifiers, air movers, and HEPA vacuums designed to trap dangerous particles found in the air of fire-damaged homes. We also utilize specialized cleaning products designed to cleanse fire-damaged building materials. The restoration and repair process often requires a visit from one of our structural engineers or licensed contractors with extensive knowledge of how to identify structural integrity and safety issues. A DIY approach to fire restoration can be very dangerous and lead to costly repairs and even structural failure down the road.

    Our team is fully capable of handling every step of the process to ensure your safety and to preserve what remains of your personal property and the structure of your home or business.

    Fire Safety Tips for the Winter

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Fire Safety Tips for the Winter

    Winter is one of the most dangerous seasons  due to the need to heat your home, cook large meals, and decorate for the holidays.

    Half of all winter house fires occur between December and February; over 905 people die in winter home fires each year, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. Two-thirds of those fires occur in single and multifamily homes. During the winter months cooking triggers most house fires, while heating equipment is the culprit of one in seven house fires and one in five winter house fire deaths. More than one-third of home decoration fires are started by candles, so be sure to keep all candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.

    Keep this checklist from the U.S. Fire Administration handy around your home to keep you and your family safe.

    What you should know about home cooking safety:

    • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
    • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
    • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the kitchen while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
    • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.

    If you have a cooking fire:

    • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
    • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
    • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
    • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid

    over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

    • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

    For More Information: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Top-causes-of-fire/Cooking

    Safety Considerations for Heating Your Home:

    • Only plug one heat-producing electrical appliance in at a time in an electrical socket (such as a space heater).
    • Make sure your space heater can automatically turn off in case it tips over.
    • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators or space heaters.
    • Close wood stove doors unless stoking the fire or adding wood or pellets.
    • Get a qualified professional to inspect your chimney and vents every year.
    • Install a metal or heat tempered screen around your fireplace.
    • Store cooled ashes at least 10 feet from your home in a tightly sealed metal container.
    • Make sure to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed and test it at least once per month.
    • Store portable generators away from windows and as far away as possible from your house.
    • Shovel snow at least three feet away from fire hydrants to be sure firefighters can get to them quickly if the need arises.

    Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Fireplace Maintenance and Safety

    Enjoying a warm, cozy fire requires a clean, safe fireplace.

    Here are 15 tips for keeping it that way:  

  • Fireplaces should not be used as furnaces. Use a fireplace for a short-duration fire — no longer than five hours.
  • Keep the glass open to allow air to be drawn up to cool the chimney, but keep the screen closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto the carpeting.
  • Never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. Adults, even if near, should not allow children to play near or with fire tools and equipment.
  • Open a window when using the fireplace to prevent the room from becoming smoky. The air coming in from the window will go up the chimney.
  • Before making a fire, open the glass doors, pull aside the screen curtains, and place the kindling, newspaper and logs inside. Next, open the damper and a window. The window needs to be open only a few inches. You can check to make sure the smoke will go up the chimney properly by lighting a match, quickly blowing it out and watching the smoke to see whether it's going up and out.
  • Keep a nonflammable rug (available at fireplace-supply stores) in front of the fireplace so that sparks won't melt or otherwise damage your carpeting.
  • Use fireplace tools to handle burning logs. Never use your hands.
  • Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house.
  • Use a spark arrester to help prevent sparks from flying out, which could start a fire on the roof or lawn.
  • Glass doors may develop tough stains from flames and heat. To clean them, make sure the glass doors are cool, then scrape off any thick gunk deposits with a razor blade. Add a squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent to a bucket of warm water, or add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water. Spray or sponge the cleaner on, and then wipe it away with newspaper (which is lint-free).
  • Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire for up to three days, so always wait at least that long before removing the ashes. At that point, close the damper to prevent cold air in the flue from stirring up excess dust while you're removing the ashes. Be sure to wear a dust mask and open a window in the same room as the fireplace to prevent negative air pressure. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far from combustible materials and surfaces and wood floors.
  • Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, because live coals may remain in those ashes.
  • Have a certified Chimney Technician inspect and clean the chimney when necessary. The chimney should be checked at least once a year or after about 80 fires.
  • Clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during the months you use it, when ash builds up. Leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing the coals to heat faster and retain the heat easier. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
  • To clean an exterior slate hearth, wash, dry and coat it with lemon oil every six weeks to make it shine. For cleaning exterior brick hearths, buy a brick cleaner at a fireplace shop.
  • 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

    The 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

    1. Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

    2. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.

    3. Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

    4. Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.

    5. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.

    6. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

    7. Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

    Find more at www.redcross.org

    Grill Safety

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Grill Safety

    Every year, 7,000 Americans are injured while using backyard barbecue grills. It's usually a case of good products used incorrectly.

    Do:

    1. Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house. Farther is even better. This includes portions attached to your house like carports, garages and porches. Grills should not be used underneath wooden overhangs either, as the fire could flare up into the structure above. This applies to both charcoal and gas grills.

    2. Clean your grill regularly. If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire. Grease is a major source of flare ups.

    3. Check for gas leaks. You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water, then rubbing it on the hoses and connections. When you turn the gas on, with the grill lid open, the soap forms large bubbles, that's a sign that the hoses have tiny holes or that the connections are not tight enough.

    4. Keep decorations away from your grill. Decorations like hanging baskets, pillows, and umbrellas look pretty AND provide fuel for a fire. To make matters worse, today's decor is mostly made of artificial fibers that burn fast and hot, making this tip even more important.

    5. Keep a spray bottle of water handy. That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won't harm your food, so dinner won't be ruined!

    6. Keep a fire extinguisher within a couple steps of your grill. And KNOW HOW TO USE IT. If you are unsure how to use the extinguisher, don't waste time fiddling with it before calling 911. Firefighters say many fire deaths occur when people try to fight a fire themselves instead of calling for expert help and letting the fire department do its job.

    Don't

    7. Turn on the gas while your grill lid is closed. NEVER do this. It causes gas to build up inside your grill, and when you do light it and open it, a fireball can explode in your face. 

    8. Leave a grill unattended. Fires double in size every minute. Plan ahead so that all of your other food prep chores are done and you can focus on grilling.

    9. Overload your grill with food. This applies especially to fatty meats. The basic reason for this tip is that if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up that could light nearby things on fire.

    10. Use a grill indoors. People often think it will be safe to use a grill, especially a small one, indoors. NOT TRUE. In addition to the fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide; a deadly, colorless, and odorless gas. That gas needs to vent in fresh air or it can kill you, your family, and your pets.

    Fire Prevention in the Outdoors

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Fire Prevention in the Outdoors

    Unlike many natural disasters, most wildfires are caused by people—and can be prevented by people, too. People in fire-prone areas should plan ahead and prepare to evacuate with little notice. Here are some tips on how to prevent wildfires and what to do if you're caught in the middle of one.

    How to Prevent a Wildfire

  • Contact 911, your local fire department, or the park service if you notice an unattended or out-of-control fire.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Completely extinguish the fire—by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until cold—before sleeping or leaving the campsite.
  • When camping, take care when using and fueling lanterns, stoves, and heaters. Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling.
  • Avoid spilling flammable liquids and store fuel away from appliances.
  • Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.
  • Follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from yard when burning.
  • Evacuation Tips

  • If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Know your evacuation route ahead of time and prepare an evacuation checklist and emergency supplies.
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear to protect yourself from flying sparks and ashes.
  • Holiday Home Safety

    12/18/2018 (Permalink)

    Holiday Home Safety

    Safety for Holiday Decorating

  • One of every four home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
  • On average, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death compared to an average of one death per 143 total reported home fires.
  • A heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four Christmas tree fires. So keep your Christmas tree away from heat sources and room exits.
  • The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve.
  • Candles start two out of five home decoration structure fires.
  • Water your live Christmas tree daily to keep it from becoming dry.
  • Only use decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable.
  • Check holiday lights each year for frayed wires or excessive wear.
  • Don’t link more than three strands of holiday lights.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles.
  • Find more information at www.usfa.fema.gov