Fire Damage Mitigation: A Complete Guide [2023]

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: May 9, 2023

If you’re like most homeowners, you’re not prepared for the aftermath of a house fire. If a fire shuts down your business, the loss is just as overwhelming. 

Mitigating the fire damage is your critical starting point to recovery. Not all property owners are familiar with the process. We understand.

Our teams here at ServiceMaster by Zaba help Chicago residents deal with fire damages every day. Based on that experience, we’ve developed this guide.

Read on for insider information about fire damage mitigation and why it’s a job for industry-certified professionals.

What Is Fire Damage Mitigation?


Fire damage mitigation is the first step in complete property restoration.

The multiphase process contains the aftereffects of a fire. Mitigation stops damages from spreading, and that reduces the time and work required to restore a home or business.

Fire damage mitigation focuses on these essential tasks.

  • Securing the property by taking care of immediate safety issues
  • Identifying hazardous contamination from smoke, soot and chemicals
  • Assessing and addressing the building’s structural integrity
  • Developing and implementing a specific mitigation strategy

What Are Common Causes of Home Fires?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters respond to a house fire every 93 seconds

The most common causes of these fires include: 

  • Unattended cooking
  • Furnaces and space heaters
  • Faulty electrical wiring
  • Overloaded extension cords
  • Fireplaces and candles
  • Discarded cigarettes
  • Holiday decorations

What Are the Dangers of Fire Damage?

Never assume a building is safe to reenter after a fire. Interiors can still be dangerous. The fire damage mitigation process contains and corrects the impact of these post-fire hazards.

  • Structurally unsound walls, ceilings and floors
  • Indoor air pollution from chemicals and residue in smoke
  • Corrosive soot on surfaces and inside ventilation systems
  • Electrocution hazards from damaged wiring
  • Slip and fall hazards posed by debris underfoot

How to Mitigate & Restore a Fire-Damaged Home


It’s important to begin mitigating damages after a fire as soon as possible. This first phase of property recovery is essential to final restoration. 

Typically, the process follows these seven steps.

1. Ensure Personal and Property Safety

Protect individuals by restricting property access during the fire mitigation process. Ensure property safety by shutting down the main water supply, electricity and gas.

Once utilities are turned off, don’t turn them back on again until after inspection by a licensed professional.

2. Secure and Protect Interiors 

Board up broken windows, and secure damaged exterior doors. Tarp any holes in the roof. These steps discourage vandalism and secure interiors from the weather.

3. Confirm Structural Stability

Confirm the condition of fire-damaged walls, floors and ceilings. Closely inspect load-bearing walls, and check joists and rafters in the attic. Tear out structures that need to be replaced.

4. Clear and Ventilate All Areas

Clear out and haul off debris and unsalvageable materials. Follow local regulations for disposal. 

Reduce smoke odors by opening up windows so that fresh air circulates throughout the property.

5. Clean Up Water Damage

Extract standing water from floors and subfloors. Take care of residual moisture with wet vac equipment. 

Begin cleanup by scrubbing all porous and nonporous surfaces with appropriate products.

Start the structural drying process by running heavy-duty air movers, axial fans and desiccant dehumidifiers 24/7.

6. Remove Smoke and Soot Damage

Use specialized cleaning solutions or sponges to remove smoke stains and soot particles from surfaces and contents. 

Eliminate smoke odors with appropriate equipment, such as air scrubbers and hydroxyl generators.

7. Address Structural Problems

Repair or replace fire-damaged walls, ceilings and floors. 

Keep an eye on areas that may have developed mold due to water damage, especially inside wall voids. 

Remove and remediate fungal growth on all surfaces.

What Are Common Misconceptions About Fire Damage?


When our teams work with property owners after a fire, we’re often asked about the effectiveness of damage mitigation. 

Let’s clear up the most common misconceptions about the process.

1. Myth: Smoke Odors Fade Away

During a house fire, multiple materials burn, sending chemicals and minute particles into the air. 

The contamination permeates interiors and ductwork, resulting in smoke odors that can linger for months.

2. Myth: Things Will Eventually Dry

This is technically correct, but it overlooks the long-term effects of water damage. 

Wet materials develop mold, damp wood begins to rot, and residual moisture can compromise electrical systems.

3. Myth: Everything Is a Loss

The latest fire damage mitigation technologies make it possible to repair and replace all types of interior structures and restore contents. 

Let your fire damage technicians determine what can and cannot be salvaged.

4. Myth: You Can Do It Yourself

Mitigating fire damage is a time-consuming process. 

The required equipment and personal protective gear aren’t available to most property owners. 

Leaving the work to restoration technicians ensures the job is done properly, and it ensures your personal safety too.

Why Hire Professionals for Fire Damage Mitigation?

As we’ve noted, DIY fire damage mitigation isn’t your best option. 

Hiring a professional restoration company comes with important advantages over trying to do it yourself. 

These are just a few examples.

  • You don’t have to rent heavy equipment or suit up in protective gear.
  • Fire damage technicians are highly trained and industry-certified.
  • They take care of every step of the fire damage mitigation process.
  • Hidden problems, such as mold or structural issues, are identified and solved.
  • When mitigation is finished, the same teams fully restore your property.

How Do You Choose the Best Fire Damage Professionals? 


Before you make a hiring decision, look at customer feedback on independent review sites. 

If friends or neighbors have recently had similar experiences, ask them for recommendations.

Check a company’s website for details. A reputable fire damage restoration business is always transparent about its credentials. 

The company’s online contact information is readily available, and real people answer the phones.

Ask the potential hire about their experience with your type of property. Ask if they provide free estimates with an on-site inspection and if they help with filing insurance claims.

When you’re comfortable with their experience, capabilities and answers to your questions, you know you’re hiring the best fire damage professionals available.

Fire Prevention Tips and Safety Measures

  • Don’t leave the kitchen unattended when cooking.
  • Routinely check the condition of space heaters and furnaces.
  • Change out smoke alarm batteries every year.
  • Have the home’s electrical system inspected annually.
  • Designate the house as a no-smoking zone.
  • Replace emergency candles with battery-powered lamps.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in easy-to-reach locations.

Need Expert Fire Damage Mitigation in Chicago? We Can Help

Dealing with a fire at your Chicago home or business is very hard. Facing the aftermath is also very difficult. You want everything back to normal as quickly as possible. We can help.

ServiceMaster by Zaba provides industry-certified restoration services, including expert fire damage mitigation. 

Our work is backed by over 90 years of combined field experience, and our teams are ready to roll 24/7.

We’re just a phone call away: 773-647-1985

What is salvageable after a house fire?

Soft goods that can be washed, such as bedding and clothing, are usually salvageable after a fire. Professional restoration teams can often salvage furnishings, items made of glass and metal, electronics and much more.

How long does fire damage mitigation take?

It depends on the extent of damages and length of time between the fire and initial mitigation work. The job can take from a few weeks to several months. Our free on-site quotes include a proposed schedule.

Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage mitigation services?

Yes. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover all aspects of mitigation and restoration after a fire. If you need assistance with processing your fire damage claim, our staff can help you navigate the paperwork.