Wildfire threatens a house

Wildfire Forest Fire Smoke Odor in Your Home – How to Remove

Steve VanDenBerg Blog, fire damage

The wildfires throughout California have been causing many problems for local homes and businesses and in some areas, even damage and complete destruction of property.  Even if your area is not threatened by the fire itself, you may still be affected by the wildfire smoke.  Smoke from a wildfire can spread for miles and it contains ash particles and soot that can be damaging to your property and dangerous for your health.  Like other types of smoke, wildfire smoke also leaves a strong, persistent odor in your home that is very difficult to remove.

If you live close to the wildfires in California, it is very important to be aware of the potentially dangerous levels of smoke and what you can do to protect your home from the odor.  The following tips will help you protect yourself and your family from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke, and remove residual smoke odors from your home.

Assessing the Fire Risk

fire danger sign

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If you live within a couple hundred miles of a wildfire, it can be difficult to assess just how much of a threat the smoke is to you and your home.  During the summer, the effects of wildfires and their smoke are often worse because of the high temperatures and dry conditions.  Since 1974, the National Fire Danger Rating System has been using color coded warnings to let people know the risk of wildfires in their specific areas.  You must pay attention to these warnings for your area so you can accurately assess your risk:

  • Green: Low risk
  • Blue: Moderate risk
  • Yellow: High risk
  • Orange: Very high risk
  • Red: Extreme risk

Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke is especially harmful to your health because it consists of microscopic particles of soot and ash that can trigger a variety of issues.  These particles can irritate your lungs, throat, eyes, and nose which can lead to allergic reactions and general discomfort.  Over exposure can cause breathing problems and further complications for those who suffer from asthma or heart disease.  You should be especially mindful of the health risks from wildfire smoke if you have children or elderly family members living in your home.

Air Quality Index Map

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Those who are at a higher risk for adverse health effects due to allergies, asthma, or a weakened immune system must discuss this risk with their doctor and have a plan in place for dealing with the smoke.  The following tips can help you limit the effects of wildfire smoke in those who do not have specific health conditions:

  • If the air quality is affected by the smoke, refrain from outside activities like yardwork and do not let your children play outside.
  • Always check the Air Quality Index for your area. If there is a high risk in your area, it is best to stay indoors.
  • Make sure you stay inside if local authorities advise those in your area to do so.
  • Close your windows and fireplace dampers to keep out the smoke and make sure any window air conditioning units are set to recirculate.
  • Consider an air purifier with a HEPA filter to help remove smoke and ash particles from the indoor air.
  • Evacuate immediately if ordered to do so by local authorities.

Wildfire Smoke Odor Removal Tips

Smoke Damage Restoration

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If the smoke from a wildfire reaches your property, it can result in soot buildup, stains, and unpleasant odors.  Smoke odors are so pervasive because they get absorbed into many common household objects and materials including wood, drywall, carpeting, drapes, clothing, and more.  In most cases, you will need to contact a restoration professional that provides smoke odor removal and can effectively deodorize compromised objects and materials.  However, there are some actions you can take to start the deodorization of your home:

  • Fill some bowls with baking soda and place them around your home so the baking soda can absorb the smell. You can also use activated charcoal the same way to absorb smoke odors.
  • If your clothing is affected by the smoke odor, try washing them in the washing machine with one cup of vinegar in addition to the normal laundry detergent. Repeat the process immediately if your clothing still smells like smoke after one wash.  It may take more than one wash to completely remove the smell.  Do not dry your clothing until the smell is removed because drying clothes that still have the odor can make the odor worse.
  • Power wash the outside surfaces of your home, such as the siding, windows, deck, driveways, and sidewalks, and make sure they are disinfected.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and walls inside your home using mild soap and cleaning products.
  • Clean all items in your home including your personal belongings and various knickknacks.
  • If you have access to the right equipment, clean the carpeting, upholstery, mattresses, and other fabrics. It might be best to have a professional clean and deodorize these materials.
  • Call a professional to clean the air ducts, furnace, and air conditioning units and change the filters once the cleaning is complete.
  • Do not use over-the-counter air fresheners and sprays to try and mask the odor.

Professional Deodorization Services

Fire Damage Restoration in San Francisco, CA

The odors from wildfires are not only difficult to remove from your property, but also very difficult to live with.  If there is a strong, persistent smoke odor in your home from the wildfires in the San Francisco, CA area, contact ServiceMaster DRR at (800) 439-8833 for our fire and smoke damage restoration services.  Our technicians use advanced deodorization equipment and techniques to ensure that the smoke odors are completely removed from the air spaces and affected materials.  It is important to call us as soon as you notice there is a problem to help prevent additional smoke damage to your home, as well as adverse health effects.