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Post-Marshall Fire: Facts For Boulder County Property Owners

Marshall fire damage

As with all catastrophes, it’s buyer-beware time. When hiring anyone to do work around your home or office, make sure they’re professional and experienced in mitigation. A local company is often preferred because they have an invested interest in the area. This past month, as Restoration 1 has had a chance to talk with clients and personally visit the area to evaluate the damage, here are some things we’ve learned.

Is There Damage To Your Home? A number of homes and commercial buildings surrounding the areas impacted by the Marshall Fire are structurally sound. At first sight, they may look perfectly fine. Owners may breathe a sigh of relief – knowing they avoided a potentially devastating event that destroyed hundreds of homes and office buildings nearby. As hours turn into days however, owners begin to notice the smell inside their home or office. Upon closer inspection, there is evidence that the structure did not escape the effects of the fire. Byproducts of the fire – such as ash, soot and char – can be seen around the windows and garage. The Marshall Fire took place at a time when winds exceeded 100 mph – driving the soot, ash, char and other toxins from the fire against the home. As the winds persisted, these materials were driven inside the home through any means possible – usually through the vents along the side of the roof. Normally, these vents serve to control the temperature and humidity in the attic, but in this case, the force of the wind pushed the contaminants into the attic and spread them throughout the insulation. 

Quick Fix Solutions. If your property was not destroyed, but rather you experienced smoke and ash in your attic because of the high winds that day, beware of contractors who claim quick turnaround and problem solved with the use of a hydroxyl machine (designed to kill bad smells and purify the air) and HEPA vacuum. The use of these machines will remove smells, but only temporarily. Now that our weather is cold and with mostly dry air, smells disappear with surface cleaning. The problem is, we will begin to warm up – especially in July and August.

How Rising Temperatures Can Affect Your Home. In winter, the smells may disappear temporarily. In fact, the smells may barely be noticed by people.  However, odors like smoke diffuse more quickly in the air as temperatures rise.  As we move into spring and summer, the sun will begin to heat these attics, resulting in more noticeable smells and possibly toxins in your home. The solution to ridding the home or office of smells and toxins is proper mitigation.

Restoration Following Fire. Proper mitigation following a fire of this magnitude is a multi-step process.  This process starts with a thorough inspection of your home by an industrial hygienist who holds the proper certifications and has the experience to inspect your home or business properly.  The hygienist uses their experience and certification protocols to write up a process that we follow to ensure proper and thorough mitigation of your home.  The most common protocol that we are seeing from homes that were impacted by the Marshall fire include:

  • Complete removal of the attic insulation
  • Thorough cleaning of the attic
  • Deodorization of the attic with ozone or hydroxyl
  • Encapsulation of the attic with an odor-blocking paint
  • Insulation is re-installed in the attic
  • Proper cleaning of the HVAC system to ensure all ash and soot are removed from your duct lines
  • HEPA vacuuming and cleaning of the walls, floors and the content of the house follow. This process cannot be accomplished in one day. Instead, careful, and deliberate HEPA vacuuming removes the loose ash and soot from surfaces. Then the walls and floors must be wiped with special degreasing detergents that remove the soot and ash.
  • Deodorization of the living spaces with ozone or hydroxyl
  • Thorough steam cleaning of any carpeting
  • Pressure rinse of the exterior of the home and any decks, patios, etc.

Additional Need For Deodorization. Proper mitigation also requires a carefully planned deodorization process. Deodorization is accomplished by one of two methods, either Hydroxyl or Ozone processes. Both methods have pluses and minuses, but equally perform disaster clean-up properly. In these processes, a free radical is produced that attaches itself to organics, odors and molecules in the air and breaks them down. They do not mask, filter or otherwise cover up odors. Instead, they break them down and destroy them.  When Restoration 1 performs this process, we place the structure under positive pressure to force the free radicals into cracks and crevices. This pressurized process ensures a thorough cleaning without missing any areas.

Validation By A Third-Party. The last step is validation from an industrial hygienist that the work was done correctly. To ensure proper mitigation, an industrial hygienist will take air samples and send it to a lab, which will then count the particles in the air and ensure that there are no remaining byproducts of combustion in the air.  Additionally, the hygienist visually inspects the house to ensure proper cleaning was completed.  Once the hygienist has completed the visual inspection, passed the home, and the lab results are approved, your home is properly mitigated. And you can feel secure in the knowledge that you and your family or co-workers are safe.

Our Solution. At Restoration 1 we follow the above top-down approach to mitigate your home or business as a result of the damage that was done due to these fires. We are not going to be the fastest restoration company at getting your home back to pre-loss condition. Our process will take longer than some of the companies that are hired by your neighbors and friends. As a family-owned business, operated by an environmental engineer, our goal is safety and security. We are careful and deliberate in our mitigation process. We make sure that as the home or business owner, your structure is safe for you, your family and/or co-workers.  In the end, you will also receive a report and lab results that show the mitigation work was completed properly.

We can help. This is not a time to take short cuts. We are happy to have discussions with your insurance company about the process and results. For 24-hour fire damage restoration, give us a call at 72O-605-2994. With one quick phone call, you can secure a top-rated service that is guaranteed to reverse the damage caused by a house fire.