The images on TV are heartbreaking. Seeing whole neighborhoods burned to cinders by fast-moving wildfires is tragic. According to the US Department of Interior, fires have consumed as high as 10 million acres in the country in a single year. The wildfire smoke from these will spread to cover much more ground. The effects on your family and home can be devastating. The ServiceMaster Restore® team is adept at cleaning up the damage smoke can cause, but we know your first concern is keeping your family safe. We have compiled some ideas on how to protect yourself and your property when fires or wildfire smoke threatens your neighborhood.
Understanding the Wildfire Threat
While late spring and summer are the peak seasons for fire, the fact is that they can happen almost anytime under the right conditions. The National Fire Danger Rating System is a great way to keep informed about the fire danger in your area. Their color-coded warning system is easy to understand:
Green – Low Risk: Fires do not ignite easily, though intense heat, such as lightning, may trigger fires in drier areas.
Blue – Moderate Risk: Fires can start from most accidental causes, but except for lightning fires in some areas, the number is generally low.
Yellow – High Risk: Fires start easily from most causes. Unattended brush and campfires are likely to spread.
Orange – Very High Risk: Fires start easily from all causes and, immediately after ignition, spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity.
Red – Extreme Risk: Fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious.
Avoiding Forest Fire Smoke
Smoke is a significant health hazard. In addition to children and older adults, those with allergy, asthma, or respiratory conditions are most susceptible to its effects. Impacts vary from person to person, with irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs being most common. Breathing can be compromised when even just small amounts of smoke are in the air. Heart palpitations can strike those with a heart condition.
If you are in any of the risk groups or have had an adverse reaction to smoke in the past, it’s critical that you have a plan before a fire breaks out in your area. Talk to your doctor about the concern. Understand the limits of what you will be able to do if wildfires are anywhere near your neighborhood.
Air Quality Index
One thing to be attentive to is the Air Quality Index, which factors in smoke along with other irritants like pollution to create a score that rates the current air quality. Any rating above 51 is a moderate risk. A rating over 100 is unhealthy, and anything over 300 is extremely hazardous. Other tips to follow:
- Limit outdoor activity when the air quality is bad or smoke is in the distance. This includes things like doing yard work or letting your children play outside.
- If you smell smoke in the air, keep your windows closed, your fireplace damper shut, and applicable air conditioner units on the re-circulation setting.
- Local authorities will inform you when it’s not safe to go outside. Listen to them.
- If the situation becomes dangerous, authorities will tell you to evacuate. Don’t delay and risk becoming another statistic.
Wildfire Smoke Impact on Homes
While not as visible as fire damage, smoke can have an equally destructive impact. The first symptom is the smell. Smoke odor can seep into any porous substance in your house. Carpet, upholstery, drywall, woodwork, and books are some of the more common items impacted. Stains can also be a concern on both your home’s exterior and interior.
If smoke from wildfires or other origins has caused damage to your home, contact your insurance company first followed by the ServiceMaster Restore team at (888) 289-4539. Our trained professionals have a wealth of experience cleaning and refurbishing homes impacted by smoke. Using our expertise, advanced techniques, and equipment, we will safely and effectively restore your home to a livable condition.