Recent Fire Damage Posts

Do You Have a Home Fire Safety Plan?

7/16/2021 (Permalink)

Building Blocks with Fire Safety Photos Do You Have a Home Fire Safety Plan?

Do You Have a Home Fire Safety Plan?

Having a home fire safety plan could be the difference between life and death in a fire emergency.  Although most people agree to the importance of having a plan, sadly; they fail to have one for themselves.  Too often, people allow the tasks of daily living to stand in the way of putting a plan in place.  The goal of this this post is to show readers that it is quick, simple, and invaluable as well as to inspire readers to take the necessary action to implement a plan.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Draw a simple floor plan of the home.
  • Label all exit points
  • Establish a meeting location for all occupants of the home
  • Check smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly
  • Make provisions for small children and elderly family members in the home
  • Practice your drill, and make sure everyone gets out within two minutes
  • Have two ways to exit all rooms if possible, this may mean purchasing a fire escape ladder
  • Practice using the fire ladder with everyone
  • Practice getting low and crawling to safety
  • Practice the plan during different times of the day and night and at least twice a year
  • Teach children over the age of six to get to safety without adult supervision and to meet at the established meeting location.
  • Teach children to never go back inside a burning home
  • Post your plan by the exit doors

Now go out and do it, so that the next time you asked if you have a home fire escape plan you can confidently say, “Yes”.

Investigating Smoke Odors for Deodorization

7/9/2021 (Permalink)

Smoke Damage on ceiling and walls Investigating Smoke Odors for Deodorization

A pot of food left unattended on a stove that catches fire or a food item left too long in the oven that burns creates a significantly obtrusive malodor, that the household occupants desire to be quickly removed.  Odors can be stubborn and long-lingering, requiring specialized solutions to successfully remove.

The first thing a successful odor removal specialist must investigate regarding a malodor is to determine the source of the odor.  It may seem simple and straight forward but knowing the source requires more than just knowing where it occurred.  Successful analysis requires locating what materials were affected, and where all smoke particulates and residue went.

Smoke residue is responsible for odors that linger and cannot be successfully masked long term with chemical sprays.   An odor removal specialist will use chemical sponges and search areas beyond just the room of origination.  If the AC unit was operating they will check all rooms to determine if there is smoke residue.  If The AC Unit was off they will check to see if doors were closed or open.  If they were open they will analysis those rooms to determine if there is any residue.  The will check the returns, vents, furniture and electronics, and wall coverings.  Smoke residue can cause significant damage to items including discoloration, and system malfunctions along with odors.  There are also health considerations that must be taken into consideration when certain items burn that are carcinogens.  Removing harmful particulates that remain suspended in the air are also a consideration to a trained odor removal specialist. 

If you have had a fire, that has resulted in an obnoxious odor that air fresheners can’t remove, call SERVPRO of South Durham and Orange County for a professional analysis at 919-596-1242.

Understanding Smoke Detectors

6/30/2021 (Permalink)

Man with orange hat checking smoke detector with SERVPRO logo Understanding Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors in a home or commercial setting can mean the difference between life and death.  A fire can double in size in seconds, making a proper first alert system a critical component in life safety.  There are two types of smokes detectors, ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors  

Ionization smoke detectors are most effective in the detection of a flaming fire.  Ionization detection alarms function by ionizing the air between two electrically charged plates containing small amount of radioactive material.  The ionized air under normal conditions freely flows between the two plates.  When smoke enters it disrupts the current causing the detector to alarm. 

Photoelectric smoke detectors are best at detecting smoldering fires.  Photoelectric smoke detectors operate by aiming a light source away from the sensing chamber in the detector.  When smoke enters the sensing chamber it diverts the light into the sensing chamber triggering the alarm.

The most effective smoke detector is the one that is in operation.  The combination of both ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors is the most effective method of being prepared for both a smoldering and flaming fires.  It is important to make sure your detectors are operating properly.  Make sure that you change the backup battery inside the detector when you hear the detector beeping or chirping.  Also make sure the red light on the detector is on, which means it is working.

Tips for Safe Summer Grilling

5/27/2021 (Permalink)

Summer Grilling Safe Summer Grilling

The aroma and taste of grilled food signals the arrival of summer.  With Memorial Day weekend quickly approaching, now is a good time to review tips for safe grilling.  According to statistics listed on the National Fire Protection Association website 7 out of 10 adults own a grill.  Between 2014 and 2018 fire departments responded to an average of 8900 fire calls involving grills with 3900 being structure fires.  Safety is essential to prevent accidental injury, property damage and even death.  Follow these simple tips to assure all your grilling events will have a favorable and safe outcome.

  • All grilling, with charcoal or propane should be done outside and safely away from structures that could catch fire to include the house, deck railing, eaves of home and overhanging branches.
  • Open grill cover before lighting
  • Practice safety with lighter fluid. Do not use too much, and when lighting do not get too close, use a newspaper or paper to safely keep distance.
  • Only use charcoal lighter fluid to start coals. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid.
  • Keep children and pets a minimum of three feet away from the grill.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your grill is cleaned of all fat and grease to prevent excessive flames.
  • If you have a propane grill, make sure there are no leaks in the tank or connections.
  • Never leave the grill unattended
  • Allow coals to completely cool before removing them. Place removed, cooled down coals into a metal can for proper disposal.

Thanksgiving and Fire Safety

11/23/2020 (Permalink)

Thanksgiving and Fire Safety Thanksgiving and Fire Safety

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that celebrates good food, family, fun and fires.  Thanksgiving Day is the number #1 day in which home fires occur and 87% of those fires are cooking related.  In order to make your Thanksgiving fire free, safety must be a priority.  Here are several key tips you can easily implement.

  • Make sure your cooking apparatuses are clean. Clean the eyes of the stove to remove potential debris that could catch fire.  Clean the oven to remove any spill overs which could become flammable.
  • Make sure cooking apparatuses are in good working order. Make sure there are no electrical shorts or frayed wires.
  • Never plug cooking devices into an extension cord
  • Never leave food unattended
  • Be vigilant- when cooking don’t become distracted where you are not closely watching items that are cooking. An engaging conversation, either on the phone or in person can cause a distraction that could allow a situation to flare up which could have been prevented.
  • Keep flammable items away from cooking surfaces.
  • Make sure electrical cords are outside of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep pets outside of the cooking area
  • Never overload outlets
  • Deep fry turkeys outside and sufficiently away from the home.
  • Make sure turkey is thawed all the way prior to placing it in the oil to prevent splatter which could cause burn injury.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in close proximity to your cooking area.

Fire Safety Should Be a Concern Before You Burn

10/16/2020 (Permalink)

Fall is synonymous for the falling of leaves and the yard work associated with removing them to keep your lawn tidy. In many places the leaves are racked or blown into piles bagged and placed by the curb for removal. Other locations allow the leaves to be blown into the street for cleanup and in rural communities where neither of the aforementioned methods is available, the leaves are burned. Leaf burning is an effective method, but there are perils associated with it. There have been numerous incidents where the fire has gotten out of hand and caused significant property and land damage. In order to prevent a catastrophic leaf burning incident applying the appropriate safety measures is critical.

  • Make sure leaf burning is allowed in the locale you intend to burn in. If so get the proper burn permit.
  • Call the fire department to make sure that the weather conditions are conducive to burning.
  • Make sure to have a rack and hose at the burn site to control the fire and prevent it from getting out of hand.
  • Only burn dry leaves, as wet leaves take longer to burn and produce more smoke, which would obstruct seeing escaping embers.
  • Never leave the burn site unattended.
  • Never burn close to a home, storage shed or other flammable items.
  • Never burn when wind speeds exceed 15mph.

National Fire Safety Week-October 4-10, 2020

9/24/2020 (Permalink)

October 4-10, 2020 is designated as National Fire Safety Week.  The theme of this year’s campaign is Serving up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.  The National Fire Safety campaign is sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association.  The weeklong event began in 1922 and in 1925 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed national observance of it.  This campaign is the longest running public health observance in the nation.  It was established to commemorate the great Chicago fire that began October 8, 1871.  The horrific fire killed over 250 people, left over 100,000 people homeless, destroyed 17400 building and affected 2000 acres of land.  Fire prevention week is observed each year during the week of October 9th.    This year’s theme is very appropriate as cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries.  As we look forward to observing the upcoming event, we must be conscious to make fire safety, especially in the kitchen a common practice.   

Here are the top 10 things we can do to be safe in the kitchen.

  1. Keep appliances serviced and in good repair.
  2. Never leave cooking items unattended.
  3. Turn pot and pan handles inside to prevent them from being snagged when someone passes by or pulled off by a child.
  4. Keep area clear of flammable items such as potholders, or loose-fitting clothing.
  5. Never overfill pots or pans.
  6. Make sure grease does not get too hot. When you observe a wisp of smoke turn the temperature down.
  7. Have a smoke detector installed near the kitchen.
  8. Have an ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
  9. Never cook when sleepy, or under the influence of alcohol.
  • Unplug small appliances when not in use.

'The Princess and the Protein Fire'

9/15/2020 (Permalink)

'The Princess and the Protein Fire' 'The Princess and the Protein Fire'

Once upon a time in Orange County North Carolina, in the quaint and lovely town of Chapel Hill there lived a princess who had come to the University to acquire her doctoral degree. Prior to her arrival, she had purchased a lovely investment property to domicile in while obtaining her degree. One night, after a long day of lectures and labs, she returned home and seasoned some organic chicken breasts and placed them in the oven. She sat down on her comfortable recliner, opened her laptop and began to study. Her eyes became heavy and before she knew it she had fallen asleep.

The loud blaring of her smoke alarm system roused her from her slumber. The house was filled with smoke. She quickly exited the home, as the local fire department quickly arrived to extinguish the fire. Fortunately, the fire was contained to the oven and there was only smoke damage. However, the smoke damage left a terrible malodor that was insufferable to her senses. She called her insurance agent who advised her to call his guy at SERVPRO of South Durham and Orange County. After spending the night at the Siena Hotel, she called the referred gentleman who arranged at a time of her convenience to come out and assess the situation.

The tall, dark and handsome gentleman arrived with his trusty project manager in a sparkling SERVPRO green Italian sports car (Fiat 500) and quickly and accurately assessed the situation. They put her mind at ease with their professionalism and knowledge of fire cleaning techniques and effective processes for odor removal. They explained how her fire was protein based and would require a wet cleaning process. They addressed everything from structure cleaning, textiles and electronics. The SERVPRO team after receiving the proper authorizations, worked with her and the insurance company and restored her home, "Like it never even happened." The princess was overjoyed and wrote a glowing Google review.

The Princess went on to graduate, met a handsome prince, after her residency, married, had two children and lived happily ever after.

The End!

Understanding Fire Extinguishers

6/19/2020 (Permalink)

Fire Extinguisher Fire Extinguisher

Fires most often erupt without warning, and double in size within seconds - knowing what to do and how to do it is critical when faced with this emergency situation. Understanding types of fires, fire extinguisher coding and proper usage is a cornerstone in life safety and property damage minimization. The type of combustible material determines the fire classification and fire extinguisher codes correspond to fire classifications.

Fire Classes and Corresponding Fire Extinguisher Codes

  • Class (A) Fire is a fire with a combustible material of wood, paper, plastic or clothing. It is generally the easiest fire to put out.  A Class (A) fire can be extinguished with water or foam.  A Class (A) fire extinguisher will put out these fires
  • Class (B) Fire has a combustible material of oil, grease, gas or alcohol. A Class (B) Fire cannot be extinguished with water.  The use of water will cause the fire to spread by causing the combustible material to splatter or lift above the water.  Many injuries have occurred to people improperly extinguishing a grease fire.  A Class (B) Fire extinguisher uses dry foam or carbon dioxide to suppress the fire.
  • Class (C) Fire is an electrical fire. Electrical fires can be caused by a malfunctioning appliance, faulty wiring, or an overloaded outlet.  This type of fire cannot be extinguished with water.  Water will intensify the fire because it conducts electricity.  A Class (C) fire is suppressed with carbon dioxide or dry powder.
  • Class D Fire has combustible metals as its material source. A Class (D) fire is extinguished with dry powder.  The dry powder removes the fuel from the oxygen and extinguishes the fire.  A Class (D) fire is not common in homes.

The best type of fire extinguisher to purchase for home use is an A, B, C extinguisher.  This multipurpose extinguisher can put out most common fires.  Once purchased, place your extinguishers in highly visible areas.  Check the gauge of the extinguisher monthly to make sure they are properly pressurized.  Replace them if not.

How to use a fire extinguisher – Use the acronym PASS:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim nozzle at the base of the flames
  • Squeeze the nozzle
  • Sweep back and forth until flames are extinguished

      (If flames reignite, repeat the process.)

Time Sensitive Nature of Fire and Smoke Restoration

6/12/2020 (Permalink)

After everyone is safe and the fire department has extinguished the flames, the aftermath of a fire and smoke damaged home or business can be traumatic and overwhelming; especially, if the next steps of mitigation and restoration are unknown.  Every year, thousands of home and business owners experience a fire loss and the SERVPRO franchises are there to assist them in the process of making it "Like it never even happened.”  The #1 thing to remember after experiencing a fire is that time is of the essence when it comes to mitigating your loss. 

Key actions to take:

  • Call your insurance carrier and file a claim
  • Get approval for a restoration company to perform emergency services

Your insurance carrier will be able to answer questions you may have, start the claims process, and give authorization for emergency restoration services to be performed to prevent further damage to the property and its contents.  The insurance carrier will also assign an insurance adjuster to work with you and your restoration company in determining what is salvageable and what needs to be replaced.  

Once the property has been released by the fire marshal emergency services can proceed.

Emergency services include:

  • Board up of fire damaged and compromised windows and doors
  • Installing roof tarps to prevent water intrusion due to fire damaged roofing
  • Providing temporary power if necessary
  • Winterization of utilities
  • Drying and dehumidification of home or business if water was used to extinguish the fire to prevent further damage to the structure and contents
  • Initial cleaning to salvage items that could be permanently damaged due to soot exposure
  • Pack out of contents for cleaning

Quickly getting emergency services started increases the odds of salvaging high value and sentimental soot damaged items like electronics, marble counter tops, furniture, precious metals, artwork, and photos.  It also reduces the size of your insurance claim which can be a benefit at the time of renewal.

If you experience a fire loss your knowledgeable SERVPRO of South Durham and Orange County team will work with you to get you back into your home or business as quickly as possible. Call us 24/7 at (919)596-1242.

Clothes Dryer Fires – Costly and Dire

6/5/2020 (Permalink)

Annually, clothes dryer fires cause 233 million dollars in property damage, accounting for seven deaths and 344 civilian injuries. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, fire fighters respond to over 13,000 home fires caused by clothes dryers each year. The primary factor for dryer fires is failure to clean – the root cause of 27% of these fires can be attributed to electrical component malfunction with lint acting as a tinder to accelerate the fire. Preventive measures are essential in protecting both yourself and your home. Here are a few key tips you can easily put into practice to lessen the risk of a home dryer fire:

  • Clean the lint trap before and after each use
  • Never operate the dryer without the lint trap
  • Do not overload the dryer
  • Have gas dryers serviced annually
  • Check the duct work that exhausts outside the home for proper connection
  • Check the exhaust flap to ensure it is properly working
  • Dry on the lowest setting after washing chemically stained clothing
  • Do not operate the dryer while away from the home
  • Pull the dryer out, clean under and behind it to remove potential fire hazards
  • Have SERVPRO of South Durham and Orange County clean your dryer ducts semi-annually or annually (depending on dryer use)
  • Replace flexible duct with a ridged duct, as flexible ductwork can accumulate large amounts of lint and sag causing a fire hazard

Understanding Volts, Amperage and Watts to Prevent Electrical Fires

5/29/2020 (Permalink)

Each year SERVPRO franchises are called in to clean up the aftermath of commercial and residential fires and like the corporate model, we do all we can to, make it "Like it never even happened." Fire damage can have far more ominous and long lasting effect than the water damage restoration services we provide. In addition to structural damage to the property, environmental toxins releases in the air by burning objects, fires sometimes do take lives. 

  • Electrical Fires in the United States cause $1.3 billion dollars in property damage, 51,000 fires and 500 deaths annually.
  • The US Consumer Product Safety Commission claims faulty electrical receptacles as the cause of 5,300 fires annually.
  • Electrical Arching, discharge or jump of current on an unintended path to a grounded object, as the cause of 28,000 fires and $700 million dollars in damage annually.

Fire Prevention, beginning with educational awareness and exposure is critical in saving lives and reducing the annual cost of property losses.  Understanding the practical relationship of volts, amperage and watts to daily living is essential in preventing and reducing electrical fires.

Appliances and electrical devices are a part of everyday life that functions by plugging the cords into the outlets or receptacles and turning the devices on.  How this works is often taken for granted.  Being properly educated on the basics of electrical terminology and their practical functionality can save your life and property.

Homes have numerous wires running behind walls from a distribution panel and terminating at a receptacle, switch, or light fixture.  Inside the electrical distribution box are circuit breakers or fuses.  The circuit breakers or fuses are designed to detect current that exceeds the load capacity of the wire or circuit and to click off or blow to prevent a potential fire.  Voltage, Amperage and Watts are the forms of measurement that appliances and electrical devices use; understanding the electrical current draw of each appliance and the load tolerance of each circuit in your home will prevent an overloaded circuit and minimize the risk of a fire.

  • Voltage or Volts is an electrical measurement of line pressure. The power or current from the power plant feeds into the home at either 120V or 240V.  Most receptacles and household appliances and electronic devices run on 120V.  The 240V are reserved for the water heater, dryer and stove.
  • Amperage or Amps is a measurement of current flow or pull of current by an appliance or electrical device. Most household wiring or circuits are set to not exceed 15 amps, with the exception of 20 amp circuits in the kitchen for the microwave, 50 amp circuits for the stove and 30 amp circuits for the clothes dryer.  All appliances or electrical devices will have a small silver plate on them that tells the amperage or watts pulled by them. 
  • Watts is a load rating of current pull of electrical devices. Watts can be calculated by multiplying volts by amps.  A 15 amp circuit is equivalent to 1800 watts and a 20 amp fuse is equivalent to 2400 watts running on 120V.

It is important to read the label on the back or underside of appliances to understand the current drawn.  Too much current drawn through a line causes the wire to overheat and breaks down the insulation on the wire.  This can cause faulty wiring that results in a fire.  Overloading a circuit with too much current will either trip the breaker or blow the fuse to stop the current flow to minimize damage and prevent a fire.  A great resource directory for household appliance wattage can be found at https://generatorist.com/power-consumption-of-household-appliances.

Load capacity on wiring is set to match its tolerance limits.  Household wiring that is set for 15 amps is not designed to conduct loads higher than 15 amps.  As a general practice it is best not to push the tolerance limits on a circuit.  Never under any circumstance replace a circuit breaker or fuse with a one of higher capacity without rewiring the entire circuit for the equivalent tolerance and rating.  Failing to do so will result in catastrophic line failure and fire.

  • Also never use an extension cord rated less than the amperage or wattage pulled by the electrical device it will be plugged into.
  • Replace any frayed cords on appliances or electrical devices.
  • If you see sparks cut the power.
  • Have an ABC rated fire extinguisher to put out a fire including a Class “C “electrical fire.
  • Install and regularly check your smoke detectors.
  • Never plug in an appliance or electrical device without knowing your line load.
  • If you have experienced a fire and need remediation, call SERVPRO of South Durham and Orange County at 919-596-1242