I’ve lived through damage and clean up after a wildfire. My mom was once on a business trip when a rogue fire started. An off-duty fireman did what he could to salvage her home until the fire department could get there.
I walked in to my mom’s scorched home. All alarms blared, smoke swirled around light fixtures, and daylight peeked through where a wall once stood. It was awful.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you can’t miss the fact that a lot of California has been engulfed in flames from massive wildfires ravaging the state. The latest one, Canyon 2, caused several of us at Anaheim Moms Blog to evacuate our homes and was particularly devastating to many of our fellow Anaheim area residents.
Some people have been given the “OK” to return home now, but it doesn’t mean they’re in the clear from fire damage. Soot, ashes, and debris have littered driveways and backyards, and now permeate homes. So what is the best way to clean up after a wildfire?
Here are a few pointers to remember for cleaning after a fire:
Talk to your insurance carrier ASAP
If you didn’t have time to inventory your home, do your best to outline – in detail – those items that you can remember. Take a full assessment of any and all damage before you clean up after a wildfire.
Take into consideration that after a fire, air quality can typically be quite poor. Make sure to carefully ventilate your home in addition to changing out any air filters. It also couldn’t hurt to check out NASA’s list of best air-filtering plants.
Beware of chemical retardants
Don’t power wash! It may drive the stain of that reddish-orange substance deeper into the material it’s penetrating. Instead, clean with a stiff-bristle brush and Borax. (I’m sure you already know this, but make sure to follow all cleaning rules when using a cleaning product.) Studies have shown that fire retardants are dangerous to sea life and can taint water supplies. Please act wisely if your street drains dump directly into the ocean, and use an abundance of caution about exposing your family to the residue of these toxic fire-fighting chemicals.
Clean inside cupboards, drawers, etc.
Soot is oil-based and leaves a residue on many household items. Take extra precaution to clean dishes, pots, pans and silverware after a fire.
Carpets, clothing, and bedding
Products containing tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) helps eliminate odors from fabrics. Of course test a small patch on any fabric, but the Red Cross suggests mixing TSP with a cleaner or bleach to be able to remove stubborn odors. For exact directions, click here for the full article.
Call the professionals
There are cleaning services who have experience in cleaning up after a fire. They have tools and mechanical gear to get the job done correctly. Services can range from dry-ice to rubber blasting techniques.
The aftermath of a fire
Having fire damage is difficult at best, but watching people rise to the occasion to help one another is one of the greatest triumphs of humanity. It’s been incredible to see companies donating goods and services to those that have been affected by the fires across California. My hope for you is that if you’re reading this or sharing this article, that you’re experiencing that same care, and you’re able to see the beauty through the ashes all the while making room for new memories in your home.