“During a wildfire, innumerable toxic chemicals, poisonous gasses, heavy metals, and other toxins are generated by the materials, household products, and vegetation that burns. These contaminants fill the air, become part of the ash, and are extremely dangerous to your health if inhaled or come in contact with your skin.” – Excerpt from “The Red Guide to Recovery”, Sean M. Scott
After the Marshall Fire, many members of our community were fortunate in that they had homes to return to after the evacuation order was lifted. However, upon returning to their homes many people discovered that the driving winds that accompanied the smoke and fire had contaminated the interior of their homes to some extent. For some, the contamination appeared to be minor, for others it seemed that nearly every surface within the home was covered in ash.
All of these homeowners were now asking themselves many of the same questions: How bad is the contamination? Will I be able to clean or restore the home myself? Should I reach out to a professional smoke and fire restoration company? Is my insurance going to cover the restoration? What about my clothes, furniture and electronics? Is it acceptable for me to return to living in my home?
A great first step that I highly recommend is to go to The Red Guide to Recovery website. I have no affiliation with them, and you don’t have to buy the book right off the bat; go to the Free Tools tab and either click the button to download the toolbox, or just scroll down and read all of the available articles. These articles will give you valuable information to help you begin to understand the full scope of the situation you are in with having a smoke-damaged home.
I have provided VOC testing and analysis to my clients for a few years now, and after the Marshall Fire I reached out to the lab I have been working with, Enthalpy Analytical (formerly Prism Analytical). I was pleasantly surprised to find that they actually developed the industry-accepted testing protocols and analyses for smoke and fire contamination in 2016 after the California wildfires. I have spent many hours with representatives from the lab to ensure that I am able to properly conduct the necessary testing in smoke-damaged homes and that the results from those tests provide my clients with informative and actionable data. Unfortunately, there are more than a few companies out there that falsely claim to offer relevant testing, but I’ll get into that a little later.