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Steps to Take to Restore a Fire Damaged Property

Introduction

WINMAR® Kootenay restores properties after many different types of property loss, however, fires are often the most devastating financially, physically, and emotionally.

When a structure is affected by direct fire damage, it not only causes physical damage to the surrounding building materials, but the smoke generated by the combustion process travels throughout the structure and penetrates odours deep into the building and all its contents.

Photo of a residential kitchen fire

Building materials become damaged at varying levels through a combination of heat, proximity to the actual fire, and the concentration of smoke throughout the home.

Initial Visit

After your property has experienced a fire, everyone is safely out and fire department has left, that is where WINMAR® Kootenay’s work begins.

During the initial visit, our project managers will gather as much information about the fire as we can from the property owner or occupants. Where the fire occurred, what may have caused it, and any other details that are vital to helping us restore your property as efficiently as possible.

After completing a hazard assessment and ensuring the building is structurally safe to enter, our technicians will put on full PPE, including respirators, before entering the property. A walkthrough will be performed where we gather photos and prepare a high level-report on what is affected, the degree of damages, and how the building and contents can be restored.

If you have not already contacted your insurance carrier, we will guide you through that process as a claim is opened.

If you have already filed a claim and coverage is confirmed, simply provide your project manager with the claim details including claim number, and we will take it from there. If coverage applies, we will place HEPA air scrubbers with charcoal filters throughout the property to start to scrub the smoke from the air. Cleaning the air buys the restoration process time, as it prevents further odours from penetrating the building and contents.

Forensics

Regardless of the cause of the fire, it is vital that the area where the fire started is not disturbed more than it needs to be until coverage is confirmed under your insurance policy. Sometimes, your insurance carrier may send in a forensic fire investigator to determine specifically, what caused the fire.

Asbestos

Asbestos is found in hundreds of building materials as recently as 1991.

Due to the forces generated by the combustion process, physical damage to walls, floors, and ceilings may occur. When these materials are damaged, if they contain asbestos then there may have been an unwanted release of asbestos fibres throughout your home.

WINMAR® Kootenay’s technicians are trained in the identification of potential asbestos hazards. If a hazard is noted, we will arrange testing of the building materials to ensure there was no release of asbestos fibres before continuing restoration work.

We have seen properties where the fire department demolished a ceiling to put out the fire in the attic, which released asbestos fibers throughout the home because the ceiling texture contained asbestos. The entire property had to be decontaminated for asbestos fibres, prior to proceeding with the fire restoration.

Work Commences

Once coverage is confirmed, our next visit to your property will be with a team of qualified restoration technicians. If air scrubbers were not placed during our initial visit, they will be placed now.

It is not uncommon for water, power, and gas to be shut off to the building by the fire department for safety reasons. We will install a temporary construction panel from the main to provide power and lighting for the duration of the project.

In the Kootenay region, winters can sometimes reach -30 degrees Celsius. When the fire department shuts off gas to the property and hoses it down, you may be left with a skating rink in your living room. If it is not dried rapidly, sometimes the frozen water causes just as much damage as the actual fire. Furthermore, loss of heat can cause additional damages through burst pipes, and delay the restoration process that requires surfaces to be kept above freezing during wet cleaning. To mitigate this problem. we often install construction heaters, ducted indirect fired heaters, and sometimes dehumidifiers as required to maintain appropriate temperatures and to dry out any wet areas.

Our work begins by physically removing all non-restorable building materials. By removing the most affected items from the home, it will help reduce odour throughout the rest of the home. In simple terms, if a skunk enters your home and your home now smells like a skunk, the first step you should take is to remove the skunk.

Once removal of the main fire debris is complete, our focus shifts to your contents.

Special Note – Large Losses

The way we restore smaller properties using traditional methods is very cost-effective and time efficient.  Although this is a tried-and-true approach, it is very time-consuming and expensive when it comes to restoring large-losses at businesses, apartment complexes, and industrial buildings. When the primary goal is to minimize business interruption, this method will cause a significant bottleneck on the critical path of a large loss fire restoration schedule.

Traditional method:

  1. Precondition surface with HEPA vacuum (LABOR INTENSIVE)
  2. Dry-clean surface with chem-sponge (LABOR INTENSIVE)
  3. Wet-clean surface with degreasers and surfactants (LABOR INTENSIVE)
  4. Deodorize
  5. Apply smoke-seal

Dry-Ice Method:

  1. Blast with pelletized CO2 (VERY FAST)
  2. Deodorize
  3. Apply smoke seal

WINMAR® Kootenay Technician blasting soot from a wood surface

For further reading, please check out our blog post on dry ice at this link.

Demolition – The Last Resort

Demolition of the entire structure occurs under the following circumstances:

  1. The cost of restoration exceeds the value of the structure
  2. The structure is un-restorable due to significant structural damage
  3. The structure has burnt to the ground

Photo of a total-loss fire due to significant structural damage

In this worst-case scenario, the team at WINMAR® Kootenay utilizes excavators, constant wetting, and proper disposal methods to dispose of the remaining structure safely and efficiently.

Once the old structure is removed, we can commence the planning and permitting process, followed by the construction of your new home.

Conclusion

Losses due to fires can be devastating. The loss of your items, home and routine makes it a particularly trying time for those who have experienced it.

  1. We are here to help make your house your home again. We know how it feels and will work on your property with the attention to detail that your home or business deserves.
  2. We are here to put things back to the way it was with as little stress as possible. Working with you, your insurance provider, and other parties, it is our job to make sure the project runs as smoothly as possible.
  3. We are here to support you every step of the way. From cleaning your sentimental possessions to large loss restoration, we cover the full range of fire loss services to make things easier for you.

This WINMAR® franchise is independently owned and operated. WINMAR® is a registered trademark owned by WINMAR® International Inc. and is used under license.
WINMAR® Kootenay serves the Kootenay region including Cranbrook, Fernie, Golden, Elkford, Kimberley, Sparwood, Invermere, Radium, Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, Creston and Grand Forks.