Fire requires a fuel source and oxygen.  If combustion is incomplete, smoke and smoke residue are the results.   The type of fuel source will determine what type smoke residue remains behind.  When natural materials burn such as wood and paper the soot residue tends to be fairly dry, light and is easily removed.  However, with heavy residue, some staining can remain.  When plastics or synthetics burn (wire insulation, PVC pipe, etc.) hydrochloric acid is formed and can be particularly damaging to metals (think door knobs, hinges, faucets, etc.). It’s a good idea to neutralize this corrosive action by wiping things down with an alkaline balanced cleaner.

Each of the above source materials can be affected by whether there is plenty of oxygen or a lack of. And it is almost always the case that you will have a combination of materials burned so a knowledgeable and professional approach is necessary. The primary objective of getting rid of smoke is not just the smoke residue but the odor that accompanies the residue.  Remember though, staining can remain even after all residue has been removed. Painting may be required.

Electrical fires can be truly devastating as the source may be within your walls and not visible until wires are burned, inside studs are burned, sheetrock is burned and BAM – you see fire.  Because the combustion has affected both natural materials as well as plastics and synthetics, the result can be two-fold with corrosive action as well as smoke residue.

Fuel oil furnaces can also be a source of soot residue although these type heating systems are slowly being updated with more modern HVAC systems as they age out. This type of smoke or soot residue is old soot not driven by heat but can be distributed throughout the home simply by way of the system itself. This usually occurs when there is a crack in the heat exchanger and too much oxygen enters into the fuel/air mix. Areas around the windows and particularly draperies can be heavily affected.

Candle soot can also be a large source of smoke and soot residue. All that romance, all that soot, all that discoloration on the walls and ceilings. Candle soot is very fine with uniform particles and tends to accumulate where the air is stagnant but will respond to small air disturbances.

A protein fire can produce the worst kind of smoke, soot residue and odor.  Imagine a typical beef stew simmering away all day and you fall asleep watching the ballgame.   All the moisture cooks out of the pot and when you finally wake up to a putrid odor, you find that all that’s left of that hunk of meat is a small charred, carbonized stinky thing that looks like a piece of charcoal. The smoke residue is usually invisible or light in color so there’s no contrast to see if you have removed it from a wall or other surface. The only way to tell if you’re doing your job is if the odor improves as the job progresses. It can be challenging but very rewarding when you finally accomplish your goal.

Whew, that’s enough for this week. Thanks to all of you who are following our blog and think we have something interesting to say. We just want to inform and educate our friends – knowledge is power. The more power we have as consumers, the less likely we are to be taken advantage of by the big bad guys.


Last week we talked about a small fire and a very large fire.  This week we’ll discuss some of the things that you can expect to happen at the point of occurrence.

Of all the different types of problems, emergencies and devastating occurrences a property owner can encounter, fire damage may be the worst on both the pocketbook and the psyche.

Depending on what type of fire you have, there may be a substantial amount of smoke.  It doesn’t take much burned material to generate a lot of smoke.  Stay low to the floor and get out of the house.  Most deaths attributed to fire are a result of being overcome by smoke.  A fire can go from smoldering to inferno in just a matter of seconds – SO TIME IS CRITICAL.

Of course, you want to call 911 and then stay a safe distance away – making sure everyone got out safely.  Keep in mind that everything in the house can be repaired, restored or replace – except you and your family.  In the scheme of things, it’s just stuff.

So now you’re standing in your yard in your pajamas and the fire department has left.  Now what?  It’s likely that the fire department put a John Wayne on your front door and now it needs to be boarded up or secured if they didn’t do it.  You will want to call your insurance agent and ask for a referral to a contractor who you can trust.  If you can safely retrieve some needed items (extra clothing, medications, etc.) you will want to go ahead and do that.

The fire department will call the power company and the gas company to turn off those services if the damage is severe enough and it will require permits and interim/final inspections to have those services restored.  Thus, another reason to have a licensed general contractor working in your best interest.

You may have to move out to a temporary location until repairs are complete, especially if the power or gas is turned off.  The insurance company should pay for this – as well as meals, so be sure to keep any receipts until you get a check from them.  Some insurance companies are more “customer service” oriented and some are just downright stingy.  Don’t let them make you feel like you did something wrong.  It could happen to anyone.

As mentioned earlier, if it can be repaired or restored, then the insurance company will want to go that route if it will save money.  There are specialty dry cleaners who can achieve remarkable results, conservators who can clean fine art objects of all types – please see our Facebook page and notice our “likes.”  Of course, our trained, skilled and experienced technicians can handle all of your needs from cleaning the general content items to repairing the entire structure if needed.

Next week, we will go through the different types of fires and the particular challenges each one presents…

Fire Damage Preview – What Can Happen

This week we are going to discuss what can be a major problem, regardless if the actual occurrence is large or small. FIRE. We are going to look at two examples that we have recently encountered. Our first example is a small residence with a moderate amount of furnishings. The homeowner left a pan of grease heating up on the range unattended for only a moment and that’s all it took. The range hood was damaged, adjacent cabinets were damaged beyond repair and required replacement, the refrigerator was burned on its side and had to be replaced and the entire home was impacted by smoke residue. Everything that could be seen by the eye had to be cleaned in each room of the house. This included the ceiling, light fixtures, walls, window blinds as well as the windows and doors along with all the contents. These consisted of draperies, rugs, clothing and pillows which required specialty dry cleaning. The upholstered furniture and hard goods needed cleaning as well as the carpet. Some rooms required painting even after cleaning since the smoke residue left some staining on the walls and ceiling. All in all, for just a little grease pan fire, this job took about 4 weeks to complete from our initial estimate to reaching an agreed price with the insurance company to the execution of the job to a satisfied customer. And cost somewhere just under $15,000. Granted, even though this customer chose to see an opportunity in this tragedy (and thankfully no one was injured) she still would not have chosen to go through all of the effort without some serious thought.

Our second example illustrates just how bad fire can be. Picture this – a 22,500 square foot facility with 7,500 square feet used to warehouse paper products. The remaining 15,000 square feet was used as office space with an entire room devoted to the life blood of this national company, on line servers. The cause of the fire was a truck with faulty wiring parked in the warehouse. The warehouse will be completely gutted and all the steel structure cleaned, primed and painted with all new insulation and interior finishes and that phase of the job (repairs) always takes a bit longer. Even though a fire wall separated the warehouse from the office areas, the impact from smoke was substantial. These folks were facing some serious business interruption (loss of income and customers) or we could call in a small army of people and equipment which we did. With a team of 8 technicians responding on a Friday, power was returned to the facility just after lunchtime and the servers were turned back on by close of business. On Saturday, a 26 man team worked through the weekend to process 15,000 square feet so that work could resume on Monday at its normal pace. Every desk, every computer station, every chair, every personal item had to be cleaned. The equipment deployed reduced the odor from smoke to an almost non-existent level and the area farthest from the fire damage was deemed better than before the fire. This fire had the potential to affect many people but we were able to minimize that impact and help these folks continue with their work all in the space of a few days. Although this project was well into six figures, the cost of returning the facility to working order was priceless.

So even from something seemingly small to something of major magnitude it is critical to have competent and qualified people getting you back to “normal”. Getting rid of the smoke odor is the primary goal and a thorough cleaning is the actual benefit. We often tell customers that their home or place of business will never be as clean again. But that’s only part of the solution. It’s important to understand what repairs are necessary and to perform the repairs correctly. A licensed general contractor well versed in this kind of work, like 1st Aide Restoration, Inc. can easily provide this service.


As we discussed last week, we are going to take you through the necessary steps WHEN YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!

A property disaster can take many, many forms – fire, water, storm/wind, mold, vandalism, trauma, etc. – each will be addressed in the upcoming weeks.  However, there are a few basic things to keep in mind, no matter what happens.

Remember, you are responsible for mitigating your damage.  Insurance companies frown upon a broken water pipe where there was an opportunity to turn off the water and it wasn’t done.  Same with a fire and the front door has not been boarded up to prevent additional vandalism, etc.  If a tree goes through your roof, you need to have a tarp placed over the damaged area to prevent additional water damage inside.

It is recommended that you call your insurance agent or a qualified emergency services contractor as soon as possible.  A good agent will listen to your story and give you an idea of how to proceed.  In some instances, your deductible may come close to the amount of damage you have incurred.  If this is the case, you probably do NOT want to file a claim.  This all depends upon your personal financial threshold – if a claim is $1,500.00 and you have a $1,000.00 deductible, can you handle the difference?  Bear in mind, you may not be able to reach your agent on the weekend or the middle of the night.  As a company, we are generally opposed to the 1-800 numbers as your claim will be automatically placed in the system.  However, there is a resolution to this problem.  As we promote ourselves, 1st Aide Restoration (or another qualified contractor) is available 24/7 on an emergency basis.  Just call for information or help and we or a reputable contractor will either come to your rescue or point you in the right direction.  We will normally make a free visit during normal hours to help determine if you need to file a claim and will work with your agent and insurance company to reduce as much red tape as possible.

The most important information we can relay to you, however, is IT IS YOUR CHOICE TO DETERMINE WHO HELPS YOU.  Yes, we are going there…many insurance companies have set up contractor programs and will refer you to one of their “preferred” contractors.

● Some of the larger restoration companies have a national contract with the insurance companies and the local franchise owners just may not be that good.

● We believe this is a conflict of interest for both the insurance company and the contractor.

● With a program, it is in the contractor’s best interest to satisfy the insurance company – NOT YOU.

● A good agent will refer or suggest approximately 3 contractor names – YOU MAKE A CHOICE.  We have chosen not to pursue programs for this very reason and have decided to let our credentials and experience speak for themselves.

● Please be aware of contractors who show up unsolicited as a result of chasing fire trucks or listening to scanners.  They can be VERY pushy.

● Check out your Better Business Bureau for reputable contractors and the contractor’s website for further information.

● You are the customer and YOU have to be happy.  There are just too many chances for things to go wrong when you do not have an independent advocate on your side.

If the problem happens, call us – we can help.

Next week, we will begin examining each type of problem and guide you through the process with more information.



So you have purchased your home – you want to protect it.  With or without a mortgage, you need insurance.  Many folks have used the same agent used by their parents or neighbors.  Find someone you trust and who will take the time to explain the details and will answer your questions.  Many qualifications go into insurance policies – these days, even your credit rating and past claim history is used to determine if you are a good risk.  History shows car accidents happen, but when it comes to your home, the prevalent thought is your home will be better maintained than your vehicle.  Thus the premiums are somewhat lower for homeowner insurance than car insurance.  BUT, as natural disasters seem to be increasing, Insurance Companies have found themselves in precarious positions when covering areas with hurricane and tornado activity.  As a small example, your insurance company will want to know how far you live from a fire station, whether you have a wood or brick structure, whether you live in a flood plain, any existing alarm systems, etc.

After meeting with your agent, many companies request an on-site evaluation prior to writing the policy.  Do not be alarmed.  This is becoming common practice.  Once your policy is written and delivered to you, READ IT IN ITS ENTIRETY!  Although legal translations may be required for many of us “laymen,” you need to know what’s covered and what’s NOT!  Start with the declarations page.  This page should show the coverage period, premiums, exclusions, insured names, covered addresses, deductibles and insurance limits.

First, determine what type policy you have, i.e. Named Perils vs. All Risk Policy   Named perils cover only what’s named or listed in the policy.  All risk policies cover everything not specifically excluded.

Review the exclusions:  You don’t want to be caught and find out too late something has been excluded from your policy.  For example and unfortunately, North Carolina has a cap of $5,000.00 for mold remediation and many policies have a total mold exclusion.

Review your conditions:  Many policies will dictate that certain actions must be taken such as protecting your property after damage has occurred (mitigating the loss such as turning off the water when you have a leaky pipe…) and filing a proof of loss in a timely manner.

Review your endorsements:  These can modify your policy in some manner which can affect your coverage, such as sewage backup.  Endorsements are used to add, delete or change property listed in the policy.

ACV vs. RCV:  What is this?  ACV refers to Actual Cash Value.  RCV refers to Replacement Cost Value.  An ACV policy may pay only 50% or less for your kitchen table purchased 10 years ago, based upon depreciation calculations.  If you have a RCV policy, however, your insurance company should pay based upon the cost to replace the table.  If you purchased the table 10 years ago for $500.00 and it would cost $800.00 for a comparable model today, that is what you should receive.  Please understand that the premiums will be higher for the RCV policy than for the ACV policy.  As a general rule, if you can afford the RCV policy, take it.  You do not want to be surprised to find out that all your possessions have been depreciated (like a car…)

Limits:  This is what is says.  In the case of a massive fire, rebuilding may be more costly than totaling out your home for the coverage limit.  Not surprisingly, rebuilding is actually much more expensive than new construction because of the additional work of demolition, existing material matches, etc.

Deductibles:  If you are reading this article, no doubt you are aware of deductibles.  Varying in amounts from $250 up, you are responsible for paying this amount out of your own pocket to whoever completes your job.  The insurance company will cover the loss LESS the deductible.  Many contractors would like to receive your deductible as a sign of good faith toward the beginning of your job.  Otherwise, this item tends to be overlooked and BAM, you owe it at the end to the contractor.  The Contractor WILL request your deductible to be paid in full as this is part of the cost of the job.

Preparation:  Take pictures of your home and the valuables inside such as furniture, paintings, china, silver – anything you might miss.  We’ve all heard what to do:  store important documents (such as your policy and appraisal documentation) in a safe place such as a safety deposit box.  You may also consider a scheduled endorsement for items of unusually high value.

Maintain your home!  Many insurance companies expect a certain amount of normal household maintenance – gutter cleaning, brick pointing, wood/vinyl/driveway maintenance, etc.  For example, do not expect any insurance company adjuster to supply you with a brand new roof for a small amount of hail damage if your shingles are aged out.

Now you’re ready…sort of.  Next week, we’ll discuss what to do when a problem happens – fire, water, storm, mold, trauma, etc.


We’d like to try something new – As the world of insurance claims becomes more convoluted, frustrating and downright annoying, we’d like to provide some simple, yet effective information which everyone can use.  We’ve always said we are a “one-stop shop” for handling any type of disaster which come your way – now we’re going to put our actions into solid practice – giving you tips, suggestions and a little more information that might be beneficial to you.  We’re planning to blog at least once a week about step 1 through step 30 (or more) of an insurance claim – what to do prior to a disaster, what to do during and after a disaster, how to survive your property loss and what’s even better – we share some of our “insider” information and references!

Next week we’ll discuss getting your act together – BEFORE a problem!

Knee Deep in the Water Somewhere

Thank goodness it’s not over our heads – just over the tops of our boots!  But it can be easily over your head for even a SMALL water damage – call us!  We are the water damage experts!





We just received our monthly Costco coupon booklet and noticed fire extinguishers and smoke alarms are on sale with a $7.00 discount through 2/24/13 – no coupon needed!

With that thought in mind, we’re sure you are aware of the necessity of having fire extinguishers around, but are you familiar with the different types?  Here’s a quick primer for most homeowners:

CLASS A – good for wood, paper and some plastic fires.

CLASS B – good for gas, oil, kerosene and grease fires.

CLASS C – good for electrical fires – NOTE:  NEVER USE WATER ON AN ELECTRICAL FIRE!

Most property owners can find a good multipurpose Class ABC extinguisher that fits within their budget.  There are, however, a few rules to follow!

1.  Always know what type of fire extinguisher you are using on what type of fire.  Using the wrong type on the wrong type of fire could be very dangerous!

2.  Be aware that once a fire extinguisher is used, there is a residue which varies according to the type of extinguisher used.  This residue is corrosive, possibly sticky and can harm appliances and electronic equipment among other things.  Clean-up must be immediate and thorough.  Call us – we’re the fire damage experts.

Your goal is to mitigate the damage to your home or property and certainly a fire extinguisher is a must.  Be reminded that some folks believe the “cure is worse than the disease,” but we can help by eliminating the residue!

For futher information, please follow this link:


Uh oh – 6 more weeks of winter?

This picture was shot just outside our parking lot YESTERDAY!  Does it count and what does it mean???

We think it DOES count considering today’s temperature!


We think you need to bundle up with NO kerosene heaters or candles!  Just pay the bill and STAY WARM!

Wind Advisory on it’s way!

Against the Wind, we were running against the wind….

Based on predictions for tonight, we could see some extreme weather in our area. You should:

  • Make sure to secure all loose items on your porch or patio.
  • If high or rotating winds happen, move to an interior room or basement.
  • Make sure that everyone is accounted for and safe (including pets!)
  • If  trees or limbs DO damage your home and cause a leak, try to move items that might get wet to a safer place until the roof can be tarped.
  • Call 1st Aide Restoration, Inc. for assistance, but no matter who you call, make sure they are Licensed General Contractors.  You also have the freedom to choose your contractor, you’re not required to use your insurance company’s preferred vendor.