Friday, 14 December 2018
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

The Danger's Not Over When the Flames Go Out: What to Look for Before You Return Home After a Fire

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Wednesday, 05 December 2018 05:30

The recent California fires devastated homes and families, with hundreds of homes burned to the ground and a loss of life that is beyond tragic. But, for many, the fire danger remains even though the flames have been extinguished. Countless homes that made it through the fires continue to be uninhabitable because of smoke damage and environmental conditions.

Should you ever be in the unfortunate position to have to escape or endure a fire, these tips will help keep you safe.

Don’t move back in just because everything looks fine.

“Sometimes homes that appear completely safe after a fire can conceal damage that is invisible to homeowners,” said Fast Home Help. “It is important that you have your home thoroughly inspected by licensed, experienced professionals.”

That often means more than one professional. “It is unlikely that a single inspector will be able to conduct all aspects of your home investigation. More likely, you will require the services of multiple specialists, including a structural engineer, an industrial hygienist, and a plumber.”

It may seem like a hassle to parade numerous people through your home when all you want to do is get back to normal, but, when it comes to specialists whose job it is to ensure the safety of your home and its inhabitants, the more, the merrier. “While smoke damage is visible on walls and ceilings, it can also permeate these surfaces and cause damage to a home's structure/framing, wall studs, insulation and air ducts in your ventilation system,” said Resolve by Lowes. “When soot and smoke particles become trapped in the HVAC system, the smoke odor can reoccur periodically and even cause respiratory problems.”

Do a water quality test

You can buy one of these for about $20, and the peace of mind it will give you is priceless. “Wildfires can compromise water quality both during active burning, and for months and years after the fire has been contained,” said the California Water Science Center. “During active burning, ash can settle on lakes and reservoirs used for drinking water supplies, like during the 2013 Rim Fire.

Be wary of ashes

While the California Air Resources Board said that, “The ash deposited by forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace,” they do note that, “Any ash will contain small amounts of cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, fire ash may be irritating to the skin, especially to those with sensitive skin. If the ash is breathed, it can be irritating to the nose and throat and may cause coughing. Exposure to ash in air might trigger asthmatic attacks in people who already have asthma.”

They recommend taking great care with any ash that has settled around the property, including wearing “gloves, long sleeved shirts, and long pants and avoid skin contact,” staying away from leaf blowers, and leaving remediation to the professionals.

Hire a public adjustor

Yes, you need to have your home assessed for insurance purposes, and that will entail having an insurance adjustor come out. However, the adjustor your company wants to send out works for them. A public adjustor works for you, and is a better way to ensure that you get as much money as you can to repair or replace the damaged items in your home.

“The third type of adjuster, the public adjuster, works only for the policy holder,” said The Balance. “The public insurance adjuster is also an independent insurance adjuster but they are hired by the policy holders who are filing the claim. Public insurance adjusters are often hired by insurance policy holders to make sure they are getting their full claim benefit from the insurance policy they purchased.”

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