Disaster Experts from ServiceMaster Restore Urge Extreme Caution after Catastrophic Wildfires

Know the dos and don’ts when dealing with damaged properties

Thursday, October 26, 2017 2:14 pm CDT



Public Company Information:

"Even if the fires have been controlled, proceed with caution, listen to local authorities and do not hesitate to call a professional disaster restoration expert as the residual ash can contain toxins and should be handled with extreme care."

MEMPHIS, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wildfires have been sweeping through California causing damage ranging from complete devastation and loss of property, to soot and odor damage. For those returning to their homes or in nearby areas affected by the fires, the disaster experts at ServiceMaster Restore have important advice to help ensure they are safe and protect affected properties.

In 2016, wildfires caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damages1. Some reports already estimate that damage from the California wildfires has already topped $3 billion2 and affected more than 7,000 properties this year.

“Not all those impacted by the wildfires will experience total devastation. Many more will be impacted by blowing ash and soot,” says Pete Duncanson, director of operations for ServiceMaster Restore and chairman of the board of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

Many areas of California were evacuated and Duncanson stresses to take precaution before reentering a home or business. “Even if the fires have been controlled, proceed with caution, listen to local authorities and do not hesitate to call a professional disaster restoration expert as the residual ash can contain toxins and should be handled with extreme care.”

Regardless of the extent of damage, any item that comes in contact with smoke is at risk to further damage because of its abrasive nature, says Duncanson, who has more than 30 years of experience in fire restoration. Odor can remain long after the visual results of soot and smoke are gone. Relying on a professional restoration expert can reduce extended damage.

For those in affected areas or who will be re-entering soon, Duncanson has the following advice:

Do Not

  • Do not enter a damaged home until the fire department or other local authorities deem it safe to enter. Roofs and floors may be damaged and could collapse.
  • Do not touch anything with bare hands if there is any evidence of soot. Oil from hands can permeate upholstery, walls and woodwork, causing additional damage.
  • If utilities were turned off by the fire department, do not use them until local authorities deem it safe.
  • Do not run the HVAC, ceiling fans or portable fans as they will redistribute soot.
  • Do not wash walls. Incorrect cleaning solutions and techniques could compound the soot residue.
  • Do not use household vacuums to remove soot, as they lack the proper filtration.
  • Do not attempt to clean carpets or upholstered furniture. Rely on a professional who is experienced in fire restoration.
  • Do not sift through debris and ash, as they can contain toxins. Leave this to professionals who have expertise in fire restoration.


  • If your home or area experienced smoke damage, wear a mask or respirator before entering any property.
  • If water hoses were used to put out the fire, drying your home is a very important first step in the recovery process.
  • Until you determine the amount of soot and contamination in your home, wear disposable gloves when entering and before touching any surface.
  • Wear closed-toe, durable shoes when entering a damaged property.
  • Air out the house to reduce smoke odor, if air quality alerts indicate that it is safe to expose you and your family to the air. This may be days or even weeks after the fire is out.
  • Photograph the interior and exterior of the damage and provide your insurance company with a record of all valuables.
  • Discard any open food packages in the home.
  • If the electricity is off, clean out the refrigerator and leave its doors propped open. Keep records of all discarded items.
  • Send clothing with heavy smoke damage to a qualified restoration laundry/dry cleaner, as they have special techniques for removing the odor.
  • Call a disaster restoration expert to help restore your property.

From cleaning soot off walls and ceilings, to packing up and sending out items to be professionally cleaned and deodorized, restored and stored, ServiceMaster Restore has decades of experience in helping homes and businesses recover from fire damage.

For more expert tips and information on cleaning up smoke, soot or fire damage in your home or business, visit ServiceMasterRestore.com or follow the company on YouTube or Facebook. For immediate assistance and to schedule clean-up, call a live ServiceMaster Restore operator 24/7 at 1 800 RESPOND.

1 https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2016
2 http://fortune.com/2017/10/16/california-wildfires-damage-estimates/

About ServiceMaster Restore

With approximately 2,000 franchised and licensed locations around the world, ServiceMaster Restore and ServiceMaster Recovery Management (SRM) serve customers through a global network of franchises available 24/7/365 to provide residential and commercial restoration services resulting from damage caused by water, fire, smoke or mold. SRM is the large-scale commercial catastrophic disaster restoration unit of ServiceMaster Restore. ServiceMaster Restore and SRM have operations and consulting experience on countless disasters, including clean-up after Hurricane Katrina and the Pentagon after September 11, 2001. ServiceMaster Restore is a business unit of Memphis-based ServiceMaster Global Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SERV), a leading provider of essential residential and commercial services. More information can be found at www.servicemasterrestore.com and http://www.srmcat.com/. ServiceMaster Restore is the Official Disaster Restoration Specialist of Minor League Baseball™.

About ServiceMaster

ServiceMaster (NYSE: SERV) solves the homeowner’s dilemma. Every day, we visit more than 75,000 homes and businesses through our extensive service network of expert professionals. Technology powers our trusted experts to engage with customers so they can order, buy and receive services when, where and how they want them. Our well-recognized brands includes American Home Shield (home warranties), AmeriSpec (home inspections), Furniture Medic (furniture repair), Merry Maids (residential cleaning), ServiceMaster Clean (janitorial and residential floor cleaning), ServiceMaster Restore (disaster restoration) and Terminix (termite and pest control). Like, follow or visit us at facebook.com/ServiceMaster, linkedin.com/ServiceMaster, twitter.com/ServiceMaster, or servicemaster.com. ServiceMaster is the Official Home Services Provider of Minor League Baseball™.


Alison Bishop, 901-827-6956