After the Fire
Preliminary deodorization and detoxification should be part of the emergency services mitigation during fire restoration cleanup. This process is a multi-step approach which reduces cross-contamination of smoke residue and aids in deodorization.
This phase accomplishes several goals:
- It reduces the perception of odors — sometimes called “psychological odors” — by reducing smoke odor intensity levels.
- It establishes the restorer’s credibility with the customer.
- It improves the environment by cleansing the air for workers, insurance personnel and the insured.
First, vacuum the soot from horizontal surfaces. Begin in the room or area where the fire originated, and work your way out to the unaffected areas.
Next, apply a water-based odor counteractant, comprised of either a general smoke odor counteractant or citrus solvent odor counteractant, to flooring surfaces with a pressure or compression sprayer. This counteracts odorous gasses at the floor level and prevents them from becoming airborne.
Then spread a granular, time-released, odor counteractant to the same floors. Follow product directions for proper application rate. This type of product slowly releases odor counteractants into the air, further reducing the intensity of any smoke odors.
After completing these steps, smell the air and determine if smoke odor can still be smelled. If odor is still noticeable, apply a stronger solution of water-based odor counteractant, and follow up with an additional granular odor counteractant.
Once no smoke odor is noticeable, proceed with the final emergency deodorization procedure. This involves applying a solvent-based odor counteractant with a thermal fogger.
The theory of thermal fogging is to recreate the conditions that exist during a fire. Airborne smoke particles range in size from 1/10 to 4 microns. Electric thermal foggers produce a particle size of 2 to 5 microns or more and a small amount of heat and pressure. A gasoline-powered fogger, however, produces extremely fine particles in the range of 1/4 to 1/2 microns. The unit also generates tremendous heat and pressure.
The heat, energy and small size of the deodorant particles produced by a thermal fogging machine tends to carry them deep into surfaces, much like smoke particles behave during a fire. Because the gas-powered fogger produces particles so similar to smoke particles, we recommend the use of this type fogger wherever possible.
Thermal fogging utilizes two basic principles: agglomeration and adsorption. Agglomeration is the surrounding of or attaching to the smoke particles, making them heavier than air so they tend to land on horizontal surfaces where they can be removed by cleaning. Adsorption is the chemical attraction of the smoke odor molecules to the deodorant molecules to neutralize and eliminate smoke odors. When properly applied, thermal fogging can actually cleanse the air and drive odor counteractants deep into materials, mimicking the penetration of smoke.
Visit the RSA website for more technical information and training on this and related topics at www.RSA-HQ.com.
Gary Loiben has spent over 30 years in the cleaning and restoration industry as a business owner, consultant, trainer and executive. Loiben has trained thousands of restoration and cleaning professionals in the principles of fire, odor and water damage restoration. Loiben holds several designations and certifications related to restoration, including AMRT, MR, CMRT and CIE. In addition to his technical background, Loiben has helped more than 100 small businesses grow from initial startups. Loiben currently is a technical training instructor for RSA.
Bill Weigand, director of restoration for Legend Brands, has over 35 years of experience in the restoration industry. Weigand originally joined Unsmoke in 1988 as general manager of its service company, and in 1992 he was promoted to general manager of training and technical support for Unsmoke Systems. He has worked on disaster restoration projects throughout North America and the Caribbean, using and strengthening his deep knowledge of fire, smoke and water damage restoration.