Recent Fire Damage Posts
Improper disposal and extinguishment of smoking materials
A few weeks back a northern Michigan Fire Department reported their 6th fire in the past year caused by improper disposal and extinguishment of smoking materials. This alarming statistic comes as the percentage of smokers has fallen from 33.2% in 1980 to 15.5% in the last year records are available. The National Fire Prevention Association reports that during 2012-2016 over 108 thousand home fires were caused by smoking materials, killing over 3,500 people. As more and more indoor smoking bans are put in place of the area of origin for home smoking fires has moved to exterior balconies and open porches.
SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac urges you to be very careful where you smoke. It doesn’t matter if you smoke cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or even e-cigarettes in oxygen enriched environments, the potential for fire exists wherever there is smoke. Garages are another dangerous place to smoke due to the storage of fuels such as gas, oil, paint removers and thinners, and cleaning supplies. Your friends at SERVPRO remind you to be careful and if you do have a fire to give us call at 877-350-4872.
As spring approaches northern Michigan and the snow is melting in the fields, SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac is noticing multiple reports of grass fires daily. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reports that debris burning is the number one cause of grass fires. After being confined to the house for the winter months (along with COVID rules) everybody wants to get outside and cleaning up the yard is a great excuse. You do need to be careful as the ground may look wet and muddy, but the dry dead grass is perfect fuel for a run-a-way fire. Remember, after the snow is gone a burning permit is required for nearly all fires.
Another major source of fire ignition is exhaust emissions from small engines from all-terrain vehicles and lawn mowers. Even a spark from a chain saw hitting a wire or stone can cause a fire in the ultra dry grass. One handy way to see if it is legal to burn is to check the map at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit. Remember the #1 rule about fires, whether it is a campfire or leaf and debris burning: "Never leave the fire unattended". When in doubt wait until after a rain or the inevitable late snow that will come to northern Michigan. If you do have a fire, call 911 and then give your friends at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac a call at 877-350-4872 so we can help with the clean up.
But what about fire losses?
As anyone who has suffered a water loss and called SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac can tell you, SERVPRO's response can be amazing. The phone is answered 24/7 by a trained operator, managers return your call within one hour, and a crew is onsite within 4 hours. But what about fire losses? The first part of the experience is the same and if needed a crew can be onsite boarding up and protecting your home within hours. But fires are different. Often the fire department and maybe a fire Marshall must clear and release the scene before anyone is allow inside the home. Sometimes a C&O (Cause and Origin) representative from the insurance company gets involved. It is not unusual for the home to not have power or water.
Unlike water losses, your insurance adjuster or C&O expert may want to see the scene before it is disturbed and cleaning started. Usually the insurance company will want at least a preliminary estimate before work starts. If there is structural damage, local building inspectors may get involved to check for code upgrades. Getting the utilities turned on can be a challenge. If subcontractors are needed it may be necessary to wait for their estimates. After hiring SERVPRO none of these possible events are your problem. The highly trained managers and crews at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac have seen and handled these issues countless times. You can trust them to help you make it “Like it never even happened." If you have had a loss, give us a call at 877-723-4872 to have a manager from either our shop at Manistee, Ludington, or Cadillac meet you at your home to start the process.
Cooking fire prevention
This past week was the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week. Their campaign “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” focused on three main goals to reduce kitchen fires.
- Never leave cooking unattended
- Do not leave flammable items near the stovetop.
- If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, do not use the stovetop.
In this time of COVID 19 and social distancing more meals are being prepared at home. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires and 49% of all home fires start in the kitchen. Oven mitts, wooden utensils and towels and curtains top the list of items that can cause fires if left near the flame. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby in case you have a stove fire. Be very careful with loose clothing. Clothing fires cause 14% of all home fire deaths.
Other hints include always cook with a lid ready to slide over the pan if flames erupt. Resist the urge to check under the lid…let the pan cool completely as the fire could re-ignite. Never throw water on the fire. Baking and soda and salt work to smother fires but never use flour as it can explode. Heat oil slowly when frying and sautéing. Be especially vigilant around the holidays. The top 3 days for kitchen fires are Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Make sure everybody in your home knows the quickest way out of the home and practice your fire escape route.
If you do have a kitchen fire, remember the experts at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac can help make it "Like it never even happened." Give us a call at 887-350-4872 24/7.
Ways to Prevent Garage Fires
Fire damage in garages are common and need a fast clean up. SERVPRO is always here to help.
- Avoid clutter. We will all admit that garages collect stuff- mostly stuff you don’t want in your home and don’t know where else to put it. Recycling, old boxes, unused clothing, bags of grass clippings, scraps of lumber to name a few. Add old appliances, half empty paint and solvent cans, gas and propane containers, grills, tools and you have created a recipe for disaster.
- Clean up after hobbies. Woodworking, crafting, painting, and staining all leave debris which has a potential for fire which can start long after completion of your project. Water heaters and boilers (often found in garages) can have open flames that can ignite these items. Simply dropping and breaking a light bulb can cause a spark. Halogen lights get extremely hot and bumping it with a car, tripping over it, or having a pet knock it over can easily start a fire.
- Be careful with welding, cutting, grinding; or any work that creates heat and sparks. Battery chargers can also easily cause sparks that can ignite flammable vapors such as brake fluid, lighter fluid, paint thinner, varnish, and gasoline. Obviously, not smoking around these items should top anyone don’t do list
- Don’t overload outlets and electrical circuits. Many garages only have one or two circuits and it is easy to plug in a tool and a heater and overload the breaker or fuse. While we are talking about heaters do not use them with power strips or cords without first checking the amperage that they are rated to handle. Don’t forget that you may have an old refrigerator plugged in somewhere on the circuit. If it kicks on while you are running a saw or heater, something will have to give.
- Never use your gas, propane, or charcoal grill in a closed space. This should go without saying, just don’t do it. And do not store the lighter fluid in the garage either.
- Discard all old paint and rags. If you wish to reuse the rags make sure you store them in a steel bucket with a tight fitting lid or wash them and hang to dry. Store gas and propane in metal containers or at least on shelves in approved cans.
- Never store ashes from cleaning a wood stove or fireplace in or near a flammable container. They can start a fire days after you cleaned the stove.
- Consider a smoke detector or better yet a heat detector which will not go off every time you start the wood sander. Have a working fire extinguisher mounted in a prominent area.
- If your garage is finished make sure the attic hatch cover is always closed. In the event of a fire, the open hatch will draw the fire into the attic and allow it to spread. Consider not installing a pet door if the garage is attached to your home. Having a fire rated door doesn’t do much good if you cut a hole in it and install a plastic pet door to allow the fire into your home.
- In the event of a fire, get out, and close the doors if possible. You do not want to give the fire any oxygen.
SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac hopes that you never have to experience a garage, shed, or pole building fire but if you do give us a call the help make it "Like it never even happened.”
The cleaning process on a fire loss
The cleaning process is never a “One Size Fits All” process. Every fire is different. Often a board up is required to make the home secure after the fire department leaves. There may be holes in the roof that need tarped, windows may be broken, or doors kicked in. Unfortunately, there are unethical people who prey on citizens who have had a loss. If they see a firetruck at a home, they will come back later to see if anything is left unsecured or unlocked. They may just be curious or “nosey” or they may be looking for something to vandalize or steal.
A large number of fires happen in cold weather when seasonal heat is being used. Often the home will need winterized to prevent the pipes from freezing and causing further damage, especially if the power is off or the furnace damaged. Perishable food (canned goods and especially liquids) need to be protected and frozen food will soon spoil if not protected. Rotting food in a freezer or refrigerator will ruin the appliance if power is off in the summer. Plants and pets must also be taken care of quickly.
Although fire departments have refined the firefighting process, they still use water which requires drying. Drying a fire loss presents a unique set of challenges. Often there is a delay of several days or weeks before the scene is released from police or cause and origin investigators. Frequently there is no power or heat. It is not unusual for questions on restorability or total loss issues to become important. If the loss requires a pack out, the water damaged contents become important. Once these questions are answered, SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac can quickly and efficiently dry the structure and contents and start the cleaning process.
Picture taking hints on a fire loss
Photos are critical. Below are some hints and best practices that your contractor should use to document the loss to prevent misunderstandings. They should:
- Use the highest resolutions on the tablet, camera, or phone
- Pay attention to lighting and use the time and date option
- Start with the exterior of the home always going left to right
- Take interior pictures also left to right from the entry door of every room
- Take floor and ceiling pictures including trim and lighting
- Properly label cause of loss pictures
- Document preloss issues (especially on contents)
- Document contents separately from the structure pictures
- Not switch between vertical and horizontal pictures with the camera or phone.
It is not unusual for the carrier (insurance company) to request video documentation which is a walk through video which shows all affected and unaffected areas of the home. Technology is growing so quickly that these videos can now document the loss and even accurately measure each room in 3D. Drones may be used to measure and document the roofs and outside areas of the home. Some carriers have separate companies that they contract with to document and price contents.
After taking the pictures the next step is to make them usable. The contractor will need to create folders and label and sort the “before” structure and contents pictures. They should also have “during” and “after” folders with time stamps. There should also be folders for any contents deemed unsaveable, discarded, or moved off site. Before pictures also help the restoration company reset your contents in their original locations after cleaning.
Another advantage of quality pictures becomes evident when reconstruction is necessary. The company you hire to put the structure back to preloss condition will probably have never seen your home before the fire. Pictures truly do show 1000 words and help you explain what you want it to look like when finished. Good pictures can also help fill out the unsavable lists if you have a large loss and some areas of the home are actually missing. SERVPRO Of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac hopes you never have a large fire but if you do, hopefully these tips will help make it easier.
So you had a fire loss
You will be amazed on how many people will get involved on this loss. You will of course be dealing with your insurance carrier. (Auto Owners, State Farm, Farm Bureau, Citizens, Fremont, etc.) Your carrier may have a relationship (agreement) with multiple specialty companies including;
- Laundry or dry cleaning
- Document drying and deodorization
- Debris removal
- Water damage and drying
- Smoke odor reduction
- Electronics restoration
- Pack-Out, Moving, and Storage
- Artwork, Heirlooms, or Photography
- Billiard tables
- Musical instruments
You will need to choose a restoration contractor to take care of the structural cleaning and handle all or some of the above items. Of course we would like you to choose SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac but you will have many options. There are many major restoration vendors, local contractors, and even small mom and pop companies willing to help clean and deodorize your home. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Make sure you get references from your agent, your adjuster, and customers who have used the vendors for prior losses. Everyone’s goal should be the same---get you back into your home quickly and complete the claim in the most accurate manner possible. Your insurance company just wants to pay what they owe from your policy (contract) that both of you signed. The restoration contractor wants to complete the claim, allow you back into your home, and get paid for what they have done—nothing more, nothing less.
Outdoor Grill Safety
July is over which means you already had your big vacation trip. Because fall sports practice (and soon school) are starting, you will be spending more time closer to home. This means the home grilling season is hitting full swing. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) his posted the following hints to help prevent injury and deaths. The NFPA says seven out of every ten adults in the U.S. has a grill or a smoker. That means over 250 million are in use in the U.S.
The biggest fire risks are from failure to clean the grill, leaks in the gas hoses, or breaks in the grill body itself. Obviously, NEVER use your grill inside. That includes garages, three season rooms, or tents. Opening the windows or garage doors will not prevent the buildup of CO2, which is a deadly colorless and odorless gas. Please take a minute and follow the general grill safety rules published by NFPA:
- Check your grill before you light it for damage and to make sure it is clean. A buildup of grease and fat from the grid and trays can lead to an uncontrollable flame up.
- Keep the grill away from flammable items. This includes deck rails and garage or home walls. Also look up to make sure nothing above the grill is flammable.
- Pets and children must be taught to stay at least 3 feet from the grill….it is hot.
- Never leave the grill unattended, even for a few minutes.
The two main types of grills are propane and charcoal. Always check for leaks before lighting a propane grill, especially if you smell gas. You can check the fittings and hoses easily with a solution of dish washing soap and water. You will see the bubbles forming if there is a leak. Never light a grill unless the top is open to prevent the buildup of excessive gas. Turn the grill off and wait at least 5 minutes if the grill fails to light on the first attempt.
The biggest danger from charcoal grills comes from CO2 gas and improper use the starter fluid. Again, NEVER use your grill indoors. To prevent flare ups use only labeled fuel to light the charcoal. Gas, lighter fluid, and any other flammable liquids can explode and must not be used. They can also leave residues that can contaminate your food. Once the charcoal has been lit, never add more starter fluid. Be especially careful when disposing of the used charcoal. The coals can start a fire long after you believe they are dead.
Take a few minutes to check and clean your grill before an accident happens. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac wishes you a great late summer grilling season and hopes you never have to use our Fire Damage and Restoration Services.
The facts about smoke alarms
We all know that smoke alarms play a vital role in saving lives when installed and maintained correctly so why is it that 37% of home fire deaths result from fires in which no working smoke alarm was found to be present?
SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac has a few tips to ensure the safety of your home by installing smoke alarms. Aside from installing them on every level of your home, they should also be installed away from the kitchen at least 10 feet to prevent false alarms. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke alarms be installed in every bedroom, outside all sleeping quarters and on every level of the house including the basement.
Test your smoke alarms at least once a month along with changing out the batteries every 6 months. If you hear the alarm chirping, that is an indication that the batteries are running low and you should change them as soon as possible. In addition to batteries, all smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years.
Three out of five fire deaths occur in home where no working smoke alarms or no smoke alarm at was found. The scary part is the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half with homes that have working smoke alarms.
For more questions about your smoke alarms, please contact SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac and we would be happy to help you and answer any questions that you may have.
Tips to avoid Christmas tree fires
From the finding and cutting of the perfect tree, to admiring the beautiful decorations and perfectly placed lights. Those are just a couple of the fond traditions so many people have during the Christmas season.
But did you know just how dangerous Christmas trees can be? According to the National Fire Protection Association, 1 in every 31 Christmas trees become deadly. The US Fire Departments respond to an average of 230 structure fires that stem from a Christmas tree every year. To help ease your mind this holiday season, here are some safety tips to try at home to ensure you have a safe and happy holiday.
Check your lights. If the cords are frayed, have cracked bulbs or have any loose connections, it's time to buy a new strand.
Be sure to use only a single extension cord that can reach your homes outlet without being to long and getting tangled.
Make sure all outdoor light connectors are away from metal rain gutters and off the ground.
To lessen the chance of a fire, purchase a freshly cut tree and be sure to keep the tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source.
Water your tree every day and properly dispose of it shortly after Christmas before the tree becomes dry.
For more tips on how to prevent a Christmas tree fire in your home this holiday season please log onto https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/10-ways-to-prevent-christmas-Tree-holiday-decoration-Fires-362624651.html
And for any other questions that you may have please visit our website www.SERVPROofmlc.com