Recent Fire Damage Posts

Preventing fires in your home

3/10/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO of Ellis County is here to assist your rebuild and restoration needs in the event of a fire. We understand that the best course of action for you is to avoid the fire in the first place. It's appropriate to end this string of fire-related blogs with one that you can act upon now, to make your home a safer place and hopefully avoid any fire damage in the future.

If you have any questions or there is a topic not discussed, your local fire department will also have plenty of resources to use to ensure your home is protected.

To talk about what can be done to prevent fires to your house or residence, it’s, of course, important to get a grasp on what the main causes of fires are. Once we know what might be the source of potential fire, we can then delve into the steps you can take to make these sources safer in your everyday life.

Our experience at SERVPRO of Ellis County definitely echos this source that discusses the common causes of house fires. The ones we run into most often include kitchen/cooking fires, electrical fires, and smoking-related. These are things that we use every day, meaning that many times people become complacent with them. Having a general idea of the common causes of house fires, let’s now take a look at the steps to be taken to avoid them.

Kitchen fires, cooking fires, and grease fires are all frequent culprits of fire damage. There are some basic things you can do to minimize the risks when cooking. First and foremost, never leave your food cooking when unattended. It is tempting to go do something else for 5-10 minutes while you let food cook, but this can have unintended consequences when one stray flame causes a fire that you could have extinguished easily, but how now turned into a full-blown kitchen fire.

Similarly, leaving rags, oven mitts, or anything flammable near the stove or oven only serves as fuel for a potential fire. Be sure to always store these items a safe distance from the heat sources in your kitchen.

Finally, all kitchen appliances that rely on electricity should be unplugged when not in use. While it may be a hassle to plug your coffee machine in first thing every morning, this is much preferable to a fire caused by faulty wiring.

In fact, faulty wiring can cause a fire in every room of your house, not just your kitchen. Electricity is an ingrained part of modern life, and it is not realistic to request you unplug every single device in every room when you leave.

However, there are still some useful tips to help minimize the risk your electrical devices have in your home.

First and foremost, those power cords and surge protectors you use to expand the electrical outlet capacity in your home are a large fire hazard. These should be avoided or used sparingly. Ensure that all electrical wires do not run underneath carpet or rugs, are kept away from water, and any possible heat source. Keep an eye on your electrical devices and their associated cords, if anything seems hotter than is typical unplug the device immediately.

Smoking is the other cause of fires that we see often. Not only does this cause fire, but we frequently have customers wanting us to help them remove the smoke smell from a residence. The easiest way to avoid both of these is to simply smoke outside. The weather may not be the best, but temporary discomfort is much preferable to the long and arduous process of dealing with fire damage.

Your home has a plethora of flammable items that a stray cigarette can quickly ignite. Whether or not you are inside when you choose to smoke, ensure that the cigarette is completely out before disposing of it.

This is a huge cause of smoke-related fires, someone thinking the cigarette is out when there are still embers to ignite other materials. The way to prevent this is to always use an ashtray, and be thorough when putting your cigarette out, to the extent that you can pour water on the cigarette after you are done to make sure that it cannot cause a fire. If you do choose to smoke inside, you should never smoke in your bed, or when you are under blankets of any kind, or near any sources of medical oxygen.

Some of this may seem like common sense, and most of it is not hard to adhere to. The mere fact of the matter is complacency can be a huge determining factor in whether a house is safe from fire damage or not.

The key is to remain diligent, follow this advice and the advice of your local fire department, and have your smoke detector and smoke alarms checked routinely to ensure they are functioning properly.

With all of this in mind, proper preventative techniques can do a lot to prevent a fire that can harm you, your family, and your property.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Fire Damage Process

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

Fires are some of the most sudden and destructive occurrences that can happen to your home or property. It is an unfortunate and stressful time for you and your family, so it is important to discuss the necessary steps to remediating your fire damage and getting your life back on track in the fastest and most convenient manner for you.

A fire damage in your home, much like a water damage, could be from a number of causes. There could be an electrical fire caused by faulty outlets, a kitchen or grease fire caused by accidents when cooking, or could be the result of lightning striking your home.

As there are a number of causes, there could potentially be a number of ways we go about your remediation.

First it is important to outline how the fire process differs from the water mitigation process. When you have a fire in your home, please do not call us first! Call 911 and have your local fire department come to take care of the problem. When that is complete is when we can begin our mitigation work.

The fire department, depending on the severity of the fire, will be the ones who determine when a mitigation company can enter the property. It is fine to call us and give us your information so we can prepare, but we cannot come out to begin your scope until the fire department clears the area as safe.

Now that we have been given permission to enter the building, our work operates a little differently than water mitigation jobs. Whereas we can usually get moisture readings and begin mitigation the same day, fire damages are typically a slightly slower process.

It is assumed in a water damage that your house is fine, and whatever work we do inside will be restoring that house. Fire damages aren’t quite so simple.

Adjusters may need to come inspect the property to deem whether or not the structure is salvageable or not. Similarly, a lot of items that were affected by the fire will be either deemed salvageable or unsalvageable, and your adjuster may want us to come up with that list before we continue work. This process of doing inventory and inspecting every one of your possessions is to determine what we can clean and what we cannot clean is the first important step to getting your restored to pre-accident condition.

Once we understand what can be cleaned, and what will need to be replaced, the next step of the process is called a pack out. This is essentially moving your items that will be cleaned to our safe storage facility so that we can best clean them. This happens for two reasons.

First, we oftentimes need to use an ozone machine to get the entirety of the smoke odor out of your items.

Second, the floors, walls, and ceilings of your house are more than likely also affected by smoke odor. This means if we can your dresser and leave it in your room, the smoke odor will permeate back into the item leaving you in the same situation. It is also easiest to do all of the surface cleanings; your walls and ceilings, as well as carpet and duct cleaning while the areas are completely empty of other items.

After our extensive and exhaustive cleaning is finished, ensuring all of your items are restored to pre-fire condition, the final step before we can put everything back in your house is repairing or replacing any damaged parts of your home.

Whether drywall and ceiling have been burnt during the fire, or your vent hood in the kitchen needs replaced, we are here to help and have a number of professional contractors who specialize in restoration work that can make your home "Like it never even happened."

The final step, once all of this is complete, is to do a pack back. We return your items, clothing, furniture, and place everything back in your home like it was prior to the fire.

We understand this is a trying time. We will work in conjunction with your insurance to ensure that the fire that uplifted your life is in the past and you can move forward in your newly restored home.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Categories of Fire Damages

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

When we talk about the different categories of fire damages, we aren’t necessarily looking at the cause of the fire. While there are differences and nuances in regards to the cause of fires on the methods we use to properly clean afterward`, the bigger concern lies in what happens to stop the fire from spreading, and how far the fire spreads.

We generally categorize fire damages as fire, fire/water, or smoke losses.

We will investigate each of these to explain what that means for you, the homeowner, when one of these occurs.

Fire damage is extensive damage to the property itself and your items and furniture. The extent will vary, depending on the source of the fire and the time it took to extinguish. However these jobs will, generally, involve the removal of your items (packout), cleaning of items and of surfaces inside your home, then the return of your items (packback) after any rebuild is complete. This is a lengthy process, but we here at SERVPRO of Ellis County will do everything in our power to expedite the job to get you back in your home as soon as possible.

A fire/water damage is very similar to fire damage, with the caveat that the fire department had to use water or another liquid agent to extinguish the fire.

While the fire department does the heroic work saving lives and property every single day, the addition of water to your home in such large, unmanageable amounts causes more work to be done.

What we are looking at in this case is everything involving fire damage, but also all of the water damage requirements as well. We will have to include a water remediation portion of the job on top of the rest of the fire damage.

You can go back to view water damages in detail in our previous posts.

The biggest thing to realize, however, is that the non-salvageable list will continue to grow as the areas affected by water or whatever liquid agent extinguished the flames most likely soaked your items such as dressers and furniture and while some may be cleaned and repaired, others may have to be replaced.

This is an unfortunate situation to find yourself in, but the first and most important priority is the safety of you and your family and thus the use of liquid-based extinguisher was deemed required. These jobs are more complicated but are nothing new to the professional team at SERVPRO of Ellis County. We will be able to handle your water/fire situation just as well as any other fire jobs.

One other category worth mentioning is smoke. If you have a grease fire, leave the oven on, or have a fire situation that is relatively small and contained, you may very well still have smoke damage throughout your house. This is because smoke often times can travel through duct systems and affect rooms that were nowhere near the original source of the fire.

When this happens, your clothes, bedding, furniture, and sometimes even walls and carpet can begin to smell like smoke. The remediation process for this is very similar to your regular fire job, however, the additional application of an air scrubber or ozone machine on-site to help clean the air of the smoke odor may be necessary.

Often times, repainting is required as the smoke embeds itself in the walls. These types of damages are best cleaned as soon as possible as the longer it takes to clean the more difficult the smell will be to eradicate from the substance.

This is one of the most trying times in your life when you have fire damage your home. This is something that we are here to help with.

Understanding the differences between fire damage, a fire/water damage, and smoke damage will help you better understand the steps you need to take and the steps we will be performing to best remediate your fire damage.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Packouts and Packbacks

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

The vast majority of fire damages will result in a partial or complete packout. You can view this as SERVPRO of Ellis County personally moving all the contents of your home to our secure facility, where, depending on damages, your items will be cleaned and restored or simply stored until the home back to pristine condition for us to move everything back.

Because fire and smoke jobs are so closely associated with packouts, I felt this the perfect time to go over the details of packouts and what you need to know.

Packouts happen so frequently because fire tends to leave your items smelling like smoke. Without proper and thorough cleaning, this smell becomes worse and worse and can not only be a nuisance but also can cause health hazards to you and your family in the future. As such, we oftentimes recommend packouts and cleaning of items during most fire damages.

When you have been affected by fire damage, you want to get things taken care of right away. We will work with your insurance for approval to do your packout and packback, and this often means submitting a salvageable/non-salvageable list before we begin the process. We try our best to get approval for all work necessary and get started right away.

Once we are prepared to begin, we bring teams of trained crew members who have performed this task hundreds of times. Packouts and Packbacks are a common occurrence in the SERVPRO of Ellis County family, which means you are in good hands!

Our crews hand wrap and protect every large item such as furniture, tables, chairs, and artwork. Smaller things are sorted and put into boxes. For inventory purposes, we are required to take pictures of each item that is packed out, label each item that is taken, and organize these pictures and labels in our proprietary software to better keep track of your items during the entire process. This means we aren’t just a moving company that comes and takes your items, but we are entering item information and pictures for record-keeping and to ensure that everything comes back and is placed in the right place.

Nothing is worse than moving just to realize you can’t find that one kitchen appliance you really need, or discover you’ve lost half of your sock collection. Our process is more thorough than your typical movers. Everything we do is to ensure nothing goes missing during your packout.

After we have loaded up and moved all of your items to our secure location, we unload and store your items in an air-conditioned environment.

Over the course of the next few days, depending on the extent of the damages, we will hand clean each item that we bring before we pack them back to you. We even have an ozone room, a room dedicated to use with an ozone machine that helps eliminate all pesky odors that attempt to cling to porous items and surfaces. All of this means you get your items returned in the cleanest state they’ve been in since you bought them!

Now that cleaning is complete, we reverse the process. We pack items into our trucks, return them to your location, and even unpack the items if you’d like.

This process, similar to the packout, may take a couple of days or more depending on the number of items we have. We like to do things correctly the first time, every time. So while the process does take some time, it is much preferable to the risks that are associated with a rushed, unattentive job.

The end of your packback marks the moment that your home is restored to a condition "Like it never even happened."

SERVPRO of Ellis County is here every step of the way during your fire damage, and the packout/packback process is one of the largest and most important steps that we take.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Understanding Salvageable and Unsalvageable

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

We have mentioned a salvageable and unsalvageable list in previous blogs. This is a precursor to any packout and cleaning we do. We need to make sure everyone involved, including your insurance and yourself, are aware of what is deemed salvageable and what is going to have to be replaced.

At times, the restoration of the item is possible, but cost prohibitive and it makes more sense for your insurance to pay you to get the item replaced. This is a difficult time for you, the insured, and we are going to do everything in our power to assist you when it comes to this list of salvageable items.

The general process includes taking pictures of each and every item and recording their condition. That is something we are here to help you with. Either during the packout process or when we have all items in our warehouse, we are able to record what is unsalvageable and with proper documentation to send to your insurance to ensure you get properly reimbursed for these items.

As a valued customer, we promise to do everything we can to benefit you and ensure your life is restored, starting with advocating for your unsalvageable items to your insurance.

What deems an item unsalvageable hinges on a number of factors. The age, prior condition, any damage that was done to the item, and the relative restoration cost all play a part in what will be included in the unsalvageable list.

Naturally, the rest of the items are considered salvageable and will be cleaned and returned to you during the packback phase of your job.

The factors that go into creating the unsalvageable list and recording all documentation can be found here. This is obviously a lot of work, and we are here to make sure you don’t have to struggle through these steps and help do them for you.

That being said, there are some things you can do to help expedite the process of creating this list. One thing mentioned in the linked article is keeping receipts. This is the biggest and most helpful thing you can do when we are negotiating salvageability and pricing with your insurance.

Receipts that show the original price of your items, as well as pictures from before your fire damage to prove that the damage sustained was related to the fire. These help immensely when it comes to creating and validating this unsalvageable list with your insurance.

If you do not already, it may be best to make a list of all your items and their associated costs and put them together in a file with pictures of all of these items. This is a lengthy process but could help save valuable time in the future in the unfortunate event of fire damage.

One last thing that needs to be clarified is the fate of your unsalvageable items. When insurances agree that an item cannot be saved, and determines payment to you for that item, we are required not to give the item back.

Oftentimes customers will ask for one or more of their unsalvageable items. We fully understand that some items may have sentimental value to you and your family. If this is the case, we need to know as soon as possible what items you want to be returned when we give you our list of unsalvageable items, so that the item can be taken off the list and your insurance can adjust payment.

Nearing the end of your job is too late to return any unsalvageable as the insurance has paid you for those items, and we are obligated to dispose of the unsalvageable items.

Knowledge of what types of factors play into an unsalvageable list will be immensely helpful in the case of fire damage.

Remember, you can do your part now by inventorying all of your possessions with pictures of them in their current state. This can help us, your insurance, and yourself if you do find yourself in the midst of fire damage in your home.

Written by: Brendan Gillette

Fire Damages and Insurance

3/7/2019 (Permalink)

There are many different types of coverage you may have related to your fire damage, and understanding this now and selecting the right insurance plan could save you time and money in the future.

Often people are unaware of their insurance plan, coverage, details, and are mistakenly convinced that the entirety of their fire damage will be covered. What this results in is a large bill to you, and quite the headache if you don’t understand the inclusions and limits of your policy.

This needs to be prefaced with the following: we do not benefit from you increasing/decreasing insurance coverage at all. We are not here to sell you more insurance coverage or scare you into thinking you will not be covered. Every insurance and every policy is different. We are just going to be covering the basics to give you a better understanding of where you may fall, and from there you can determine if your coverage is enough, too much, or too little.

First, we have renters insurance. This insurance is for apartments or rental homes where your items may be affected but you are not the owner or insured for the actual residence itself. Your renter's insurance policy ought to cover fires under the “covered perils” section. There will be a few different coverages in rental insurance with limits and deductibles, so it is important to understand what these are.

Personal property coverage will cover all of your items damaged/destroyed during a fire, up to a certain limit. These may include a deductible that means you have a responsibility for a certain portion of the costs before the policy begins paying for damages.

Loss-of-use coverage is something that will cover any additional expenses that result because you can no longer live in the property you were renting. Not every policy includes loss-of-use coverage, so it is important to check if yours does. This covers hotel costs if necessary.

Another common form of insurance that covers fire damages is homeowners insurance. Fire is one of the named perils that is covered. Generally, this will include dwelling coverage and personal property coverage. Dwelling coverage will pay for the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home. This, along with similar personal property coverage from rental insurance, usually have a limit that is the maximum amount the insurance will pay.

You can look for other fire specific insurance coverages if you are worried that your limit is not high enough to completely cover the cost of fire damages.

Another type of coverage that may or may not appear on your homeowner's insurance is Additional Living Expenses. This, similar to loss-of-use, is for any food, hotel costs, and other expenses that are incurred when you cannot stay in your home.

Other things that often do not appear in your homeowners insurance include coverage if the home was vacant for more than 30 days prior to the fire, arson, when a fire is deliberately started by a person, is not covered by general homeowners insurance, and fires that damage things such as your car, detached sheds, and other property located outside your home would also not be covered. You can look into additional coverage for these items as needed.

There is never a good time for a fire to strike. We at SERVPRO of Ellis County understand that when you are dealing with fire damage, there are seemingly hundreds of pertinent things that must be done to get your house back to pre-fire condition.

One thing you can do is read up on your homeowner's or renter’s insurance, look for a section specifically covering fire, and learn what your policy details are. You are looking for limits, deductibles, possible exceptions, and anything else that may be pertinent. Knowing how your insurance will be handling your fire claim can save a lot of time and confusion in the future.

If you want to read more about homeowners insurance, you can do so here or for more information on fire coverage beyond homeowners insurance.

Written by: Brendan Gillette