Fire Damage Mitigation: A Complete Guide [2024]

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 11, 2024

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. 

Fortunately, fire damage mitigation is the first step to getting things back to normal.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we have over 85 years of combined experience helping Chicago residents deal with fire damage. 

In this blog, we’re sharing our top tips for navigating this process. 

Before You Get Started

  • Prioritize safety. During fire damage mitigation, safety is paramount. It’s essential to wear protective gear, including gloves, masks, and sturdy footwear, to safeguard against hazardous materials and lingering toxins. Electrical safety must be a priority; ensure that the power is turned off before beginning any work. Also, be vigilant about structural integrity; fire can weaken buildings, making them dangerous to enter.
  • Wait for permission before you re-enter the building. 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.
  • Do not disturb items in the affected room or rooms. After a fire, the fire department and your insurance company will both investigate the cause and circumstances of the fire and assess the damage it caused. This is important because it helps them confirm your insurance coverage. Unfortunately, moving items in the meantime may be seen as tampering with evidence. For small fires, like a microwave fire, ask for permission to relocate affected items or appliances until the inspection can take place.
  • Call in the professionals. We strongly advise against attempting DIY fire damage mitigation. Fire damage can compromise structural integrity and pose hidden hazards, such as weakened support beams or toxic residues. Because of the inherent dangers and complexities involved in the mitigation process, you should always contact a professional. A professional fire damage mitigation team, like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, possesses the necessary expertise and equipment to safely assess and repair the damage to your home. 

What Is Fire Damage Mitigation?

what is fire damage mitigation

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

The multi-phase 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.

While fire damage restoration involves repairing and rebuilding the physical structure and its contents, fire damage mitigation focuses on preventing further damage, securing the property, and salvaging items.

Fire damage mitigation focuses on these essential tasks.

  • Securing the property. The first step of the mitigation process is to address immediate safety issues. This involves ensuring safety for all occupants and responders by addressing potential dangers such as collapsing structures or fire hazards.
  • Identifying hazardous substances. Identifying hazardous contamination from smoke, soot, and chemicals helps prevent health risks and plan for safe cleanup procedures.
  • Assessing the building’s structural integrity. Evaluating the structural damage caused by the fire helps determine the extent of repairs needed to restore the building to a safe condition.
  • Developing and implementing a specific mitigation strategy. The final step is the creation of a tailored plan to mitigate fire damage efficiently. This plan addresses factors like smoke damage, water damage from firefighting efforts, and restoring the property to its pre-loss state.

6 Steps of Fire Damage Mitigation

how-to-mitigate-and-restore-a-fire-damaged-home

Typically, the fire damage mitigation process follows these six steps.

Fire Damage Assessment

1. 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.

2. 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.

Fire Damage Cleanup

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Check our fire damage restoration checklist for a more detailed overview.

What Happens After Fire Mitigation?

This step comes after fire damage mitigation and is a comprehensive process that aims to return a property to its pre-fire condition. 

This process encompasses a series of steps, including inspection and assessment, water removal if necessary, soot and smoke cleanup, and the repair of structural damage. 

Unlike fire damage remediation, which focuses on preventing further damage immediately after a fire, restoration is about the thorough rebuilding and renovation of the affected property.

Common Misconceptions About Fire Damage

common-misconceptions-about-fire-damage

1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

Need Expert Restoration Services In Chicago? We Can Help

fire-damage-mitigation-team-chicago

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 and restoration

Our work is backed by over 85 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 Are The 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.

Why Should I 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.

What Are The Dangers Of Fire Damage?

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 Can I Prevent Fire Damage?

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.