Recent Fire Damage Posts

Getting Rid of Cigarette Smoke Odor

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

Getting Rid of Cigarette Smoke Odor

It's obvious to a non-smoker when a home smells like cigarettes.  The smell of tobacco and/or cigarette smoke and tar is stubborn because it "sticks" to all surfaces in your home as it spreads through the air. So, how do you get rid of the cigarette odor?  The short answer is that it's very difficult.  ALL surfaces in the home need to be scrubbed and deodorized, including the: flooring, walls, furniture, appliances, knick-knacks, and clothing. Even the air in the home needs to be deodorized during the process.  It's not an easy task, but the experts at SERVPRO® of Olmos Park have done it many times and are more than willing to help you.  Give us a call today and start breathing fresh smelling air!

5 Things Never to Plug into a Power Strip

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

5 Things Never to Plug into a Power Strip

No matter where you live—house, apartment, dorm room, mobile home—one factor remains constant: There never seem to be enough power outlets. This may explain the popularity of multi-outlet power strips, which provide additional outlets and also let you control multiple components with a single on-off switch. There are some appliances, however, that should never be used with power strips because they could overload the circuit and cause overheating or even a fire

  1. Refrigerators and Freezers

Large appliances like refrigerators require a lot of power and frequently cycle on and off, which can easily overload a power strip. These devices should be plugged directly into a wall outlet dedicated solely to powering the appliance. If you try to plug additional appliances into the same outlet, you risk tripping the circuit.  

  1. Microwaves

The microwave is a miracle of modern food preparation, thawing, cooking, and reheating food in a fraction of the time it takes a conventional oven. But all that marvelous activity requires more energy than a power strip can provide. Like a conventional electric oven, the microwave should have its own dedicated power outlet.

  1. Coffee Makers

You may not think that your morning cup of joe requires that much energy to brew, but most coffee makers need quite bit of amperage to turn those roasted beans into a hot beverage. Plug your coffee maker directly into the outlet or you run the risk of waking up to a half-brewed pot of coffee.

  1. Toasters

If you’ve ever peered into a toaster to remove a particularly stubborn piece of broken crust, you know that the inside is basically a bunch of wires that heat up to red-hot temperatures to toast the bread. The current draw that those wires require can easily cause a power strip to overheat. This same issue affects toaster ovens, electric skillets, and waffle irons as well.

  1. Slow Cookers and Hot Plates

You might think you're one clever cook when you plug your slow cooker into a power strip to free up outlet space for other countertop appliances, but you'd be wrong. These cooking appliances require more juice over a longer period of time than a power strip can handle. And because the appeal of a slow cooker is that it can operate without supervision, you definitely want to make sure it is safely plugged into a wall outlet to minimize any hazardous outcomes.

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/home-and-garden/10-things-never-to-plug-into-a-power-strip/ss-AAwzKNH

Dryer Lint Fires

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

Dryer Lint Fires

Between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. These fires resulted in annual losses estimated at 13 deaths, 440 injuries, and $238 million in property damage.

Facts and figures

  • Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires; washing machines 4%, and washer and dryer combinations accounted for 5%.
  • The leading factor contributing to the ignition of home fires involving clothes dryers was failure to clean, accounting for one-third (33%) of dryer fires.
  • A mechanical or electrical failure or malfunction was involved in the vast majority of home fires involving washing machines.
  • Fires involving clothes dryers usually started with the ignition of something that was being dried or was a byproduct (such as lint) of drying, while washing machine fires usually involved the ignition of some part of the appliance.  

Source: Report: NFPA's "Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines"
Author: Richard Campbell
Issued: March 2017

HUD Standards Regarding Fire safety in manufactured homes

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

HUD Standards Regarding Fire safety in manufactured homes

Manufactured homes (sometimes called "mobile" homes) are transportable structures that are fixed to a chassis and specifically designed to be towed to a residential site. They are not the same as modular or prefabricated homes, which are factory-built and then towed in sections to be installed at a permanent location.

The federal government regulates the construction of manufactured housing. Since 1976, manufactured homes have been required to comply with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manufactured housing construction and safety standards, which cover a wide range of safety requirements, including fire safety. Post-1976 manufactured homes bear a label certifying compliance with these standards.

The HUD standard has been enhanced over the years and the HUD "Final Rule" for smoke alarms in manufactured homes is largely based upon NFPA 501. Today, new construction of manufactured housing is required to contain, among other provisions:

  • factory installed hard wired or 10 year battery source, interconnected smoke alarms with battery back-up (including alarms inside or immediately adjacent to all rooms designated as sleeping areas, top of the stairs and on the basement ceiling near the stairs)
  • provisions for special devices for hearing and visually impaired persons.

NFPA's national fire data indicate that manufactured homes built to HUD standards (post-1976 construction) have a much lower risk of death if fire occurs compared to pre-standard manufactured homes. The latest data (2007-2011) also shows that the overall fire death rate per 100,000 housing units is roughly the same for manufactured homes and for other one- or two-family homes.

Despite the federal requirements for factory-installed smoke alarms and the fact that eight out of ten manufactured homes now are and seven out of ten manufactured home fires now involve post-HUD-Standard units (based on 2007-2011 data), 51 percent of fires in manufactured homes were reported as having no smoke alarms present. This suggests a problem with detection devices being removed by occupants.

Source: https://www.nfpa.org

Fire Safety in Manufactured Homes

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

Fire safety in manufactured homes

Safety tips

To increase fire safety in manufactured homes, NFPA offers the following guidelines:

  • Choose a HUD-certified manufactured home
    If you are in the market to purchase or rent a manufactured home, select a home built after 1976 that bears the HUD label certifying compliance with safety standards.
  • Keep smoke alarms working
    Never remove or disable a smoke alarm. If you experience frequent nuisance alarms, consider relocating the alarm further away from kitchen cooking fumes or bathroom steam. Selecting a photoelectric smoke alarm for the areas nearest kitchens and baths may reduce the number of nuisance alarms experienced. As an alternative, NFPA 501 permits a smoke alarm with a silencing means to be installed if it is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month by pushing the "test" button. It is not necessary to use smoke or a real flame to test the smoke alarm's operability, and it is risky to do so. Replace batteries at least once a year, and when the alarm "chirps," signaling low battery power. Occasionally dust or lightly vacuum smoke alarms.
  • Make sure you have enough smoke alarms
    If your older manufactured home does not have smoke alarms in or near every sleeping room and in or near the family/living area(s), immediately install new alarms and fresh batteries to protect these rooms.  For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • Plan your escape
    Know ahead of time how you will get out if you have a fire. Develop an escape plan which includes having an alternate exit out of every room. Make sure you can open and get out of windows and doors. All post-HUD Standard manufactured homes are required to provide windows designed for use as secondary escape routes for the bedroom. Familiarize yourself with their operation and don't block access to them.  Immediately fix any windows that have been painted or nailed shut, doors that are stubborn or "stuck," and locks that are difficult to operate. Security bars or grates over windows or doors should have quick-release devices installed inside, which allow you to open them in an emergency. Hold a fire drill twice a year to rehearse how you will react if the smoke alarm sounds.
  • Electrical
    Hire a licensed electrician if you notice flickering lights, frequent blown circuits, or a "hot" smell when using electricity. Use extension cords for temporary convenience, not as a permanent solution. Avoid overloading electrical receptacles (outlets). Electrical cords should not be run under carpets or rugs, as the wires can be damaged by foot traffic, then overheat and ignite the carpet or rug over them. Ground-fault circuit interrupters reduce the risk of electrical shock and should be installed by electricians in kitchens and baths. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters monitor electric circuits for arcing and should be installed by electricians on bedroom circuits.
  • Cooking
    Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires in U.S. homes. Supervise older children who cook and stay in the kitchen when heating anything on the stove. Keep cooking surfaces clean and place anything that can burn well away from the range. Heat oil slowly and know how to slide a lid over a pan if you experience a grease fire. Read more cooking safety tips.
  • Heating
    Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn. When purchasing new space heaters, select appliances with automatic shut-off switches. Kerosene heaters are illegal for home use in some jurisdictions. Check with your local fire department before purchasing a kerosene heater. Turn off portable space heaters before falling asleep or when leaving the room. Refill kerosene heaters outdoors, after the heater has cooled down. Supervise children and pets when space heaters are operating. Read more heating safety tips.
  • Walls
    All post-HUD Standard manufactured homes are required to have wall linings that do not promote rapid flame spread, with special protection around primary heating and cooking equipment, such as the furnace and cooking range. Presently, gypsum wallboard has replaced plywood wall paneling and wood based ceiling panels in the fabrication of manufactured housing walls and ceilings. This action has dramatically reduced the impact of fires in manufactured homes. Do not mount anything on the walls – such as paneling, drapery, or wall hangings – that would reduce this protection, especially near major heat sources.
  • Smoking
    If you have smokers in your home, ask them to smoke outside. Wherever people smoke, set out large, non-tip ashtrays on level surfaces and empty them frequently. Thoroughly douse butts with water before discarding. Check around and under cushions for smoldering butts. Read more smoking safety tips.
  • Protect yourself from intruders
    Install outdoor lighting to deter intruders, including would-be arsonists. Keep gasoline, charcoal lighter and other flammable liquids locked in an outdoor shed. Don't store items underneath your home. Store firewood away from your home and keep trash and other flammable debris cleaned up. Report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.

Source: https://www.nfpa.org/

Learning About Smoke Alarms

1/21/2019 (Permalink)

Learning About Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. 

Here's what you need to know:

  • A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. 
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound. 
  • Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
  • Today’s smoke alarms will be more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, yet mitigate false alarms.
  • When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years.

Source: https://www.nfpa.org/

National Fire Prevention Week

10/5/2018 (Permalink)

National Fire Prevention Week

October 7th - 13th is National Fire Prevention Week.

In a fire, seconds count. Seconds can mean the difference between residents of our community escaping safely from a fire or having their lives end in tragedy.

That’s why this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme: “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!” is so important. It reinforces why everyone needs to have an escape plan. Here’s this year’s key campaign messages:

  • Draw a map of your home with all members of your household, marking two exits from each room and a path to the outside from each exit.
  • Practice your home fire drill twice a year. Conduct one at night and one during the day with everyone in your home, and practice using different ways out.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you can’t help them.
  • Make sure the number of your home is clearly marked and easy for the fire department to find.
  • Close doors behind you as you leave – this may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
  • Once you get outside, stay outside. Never go back inside a burning building.

Source: National Fire Protection Association,  http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/campaigns/fire-prevention-week-2

The Importance of Proper Smoke Remediation after Smoke or Fire Damage to your Home

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

The Importance of Proper Smoke Remediation after Smoke or Fire Damage to your Home

After a fire in a home it's very possible that contaminating smoke has touched every item and area in your home. In smoke, there are residual amounts of chemicals and other bi-products due to burning plastics and other chemical-based items in your home that may have burned in the fire.  Those residual chemicals have been transferred by the smoke and is now left on your walls, furniture, floors, personal items, and other contents in your home.  Even things like your light bulbs in your lamps must be decontaminated or disposed of properly.

It's important to remove and remediate the items in the home that were exposed to the fire and smoke so that they do not further contaminate your home.  The residual amounts of chemicals and other bi-products can irritate: eyes, lungs, skin, and other parts of the body.

SERVPRO® uses special equipment, techniques, and cleaning products to remove the smoke and soot from your home and salvageable contents. SERVPRO® will also remove the odors using our industrial air scrubbers and fogging equipment. In most cases, air ducts will need to be cleaned as well along with new HVAC filters installed.

SERVPRO of Olmos Park will help to make it "Like it never even happened."

Cooking is the Number One Cause of House Fires, According to the National Fire Protection Association

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

Cooking is the Number One Cause of House Fires, According to the National Fire Protection Association 

The number one source of house fires is cooking – usually leaving pots or pans unattended on the stove while you run away to do something for “just a minute.” The NFPA says that 40% of all house fires, or an average of 156,600 per year, start this way, causing approximately $853 million in property damage. Two-thirds of the fires started because the food or other materials caught fire.

Fires are more likely to start on a range (57%) as compared to the oven (16%), mainly due to frying. Most injuries occur when the cook tried to put out the fire.

Safety tips:

  • Be alert when cooking and don’t leave food unattended.
  • Don’t throw water on a grease fire, put a lid on the pan to smother the fire.
  • Keep clothing, pot holders, paper towels and other flammable items away from the stove.
  • Have working smoke detectors in the house and keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.

Sources: http://www.propertycasualty360.com and National Fire Prevention Association

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

Like candle fires (the number one cause of fires in the home), Christmas tree fires are more common during the holidays, with 43% occurring in December and 39% in January. The NFPA says an average of 230 fires are attributed to Christmas trees each year and they are more likely to be serious because of the factors that can contribute to the fire: a dry tree, electrical lights, and an abundant fuel supply (gifts) under the tree. Christmas tree fires cause an average of $18.3 million in property damage each year.

The most common causes are electrical failures (32%), having the tree too close to a heat source like a fireplace or wood stove (17%) or being too close to candles (7%).

Safety tips:

  • Keep live trees well watered and dispose of them before they become dry.
  • Turn off tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Check lights for any shorts or other electrical issues before putting them on the tree.

Source: National Fire Protection Association and http://www.propertycasualty360.com

Home Fires Caused by Dryers and Washing Machines

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

Home Fires Caused by Dryers and Washing Machines

Clothes dryer fires happen more often than one might think, accounting for 16,800 home structure fires in 2010 and doing more than $236 million in property damage according to the National Fire Protection Association. The most frequent causes of fires in dryers are lint/dust (29%) and clothing (28%). In washers, they are wire or cable insulation (26%), the appliance housing (21%) or the drive belt (15%).

Dryers were involved in 92% of the Washer/Dryer fires; the risk of fire was basically the same for both gas and electric-powered dryers.

Safety tips:

  • Clean the lint screen frequently and don’t run the dryer without it.
  • For gas and propane dryers, make sure there aren’t any leaks in the lines.
  • Vent the dryer to the outside of the house and ensure nothing blocks the vent pipe.
  • Clean the vent pipe and the area where the screen is housed.
  • Keep the area around the dryer free of combustible materials.

Source: National Fire Protection Association and http://www.propertycasualty360.com

Candles and House Fires, According to the National Fire Protection Association

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

Candles and House Fires, According to the National Fire Protection Association.

Candles

From 2007-2011, the NFPA says there were an average of 10,630 fires in the U.S. that were started by candles, causing 115 deaths, 903 injuries and approximately $418 million in property damage. There are more candle fires in December and January; the top three days for fires are: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

About one-third of these fires started in bedrooms, causing 39% of the associated deaths and 45% of the associated injuries. More than half of all candle fires start because of candles that were left too close to flammable items.

Other causes of candle fires include leaving them unattended in a room or someone playing with the candles. Even something as simple as knocking a candle over when someone bumps a table they're sitting on or a pet brushing against one is enough to light a fire.

Source: National Fire Protection Association and http://www.propertycasualty360.com

The 8 Most Common Causes of House Fires According to the National Fire Protection Association

1/22/2018 (Permalink)

The 8 Most Common Causes of House Fires According to the National Fire Protection Association

The cold weather often means that people are spending more time at home and all of this time indoors increases the risks of house fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says there are more than 360,000 home structure fires each year, resulting in about $6-8 billion dollars in damage.

The causes of these fires range from food left unattended on the stove to candles left burning. From the moment a fire starts to the point where the structure is fully engulfed is usually less than two minutes, which is why it is so important for occupants to get out of the home as quickly as possible and not try to put out a large fire themselves.

Here are the eight most common causes of house fires as identified by the National Fire Protection Association.

  1. Cooking
  2. Electrical and Lighting
  3. Lightning Strikes
  4. Smoking
  5. Dryers and Washing Machines
  6. Candles
  7. Children Playing with Fire
  8. Christmas Trees