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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Is it safe to stay in a house with smoke damage?

5/18/2020 (Permalink)

Confined Fire Damage Confined Fire Damage From Microwave

Is it safe to stay in a house with smoke damage?

In short, the answer is no.  No matter how big or small the fire that caused the smoke damage, it is a major health risk.  Whether it’s the result of a large house fire or a small fire that was contained to one room there are very real dangers to consider.

It’s easy to assume that the smoke from a fire that only affected one appliance and didn’t reach any other rooms will be contained to that area.  For example, if the microwave caught fire and was dealt with quickly,  it’s not unreasonable to think that the upstairs bedroom wouldn’t possibly be affected by smoke damage. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely accurate.

While smoke seems to dissipate quickly, it is incredibly invasive.   It will find its way into all manner of places around the home,  using whatever means possible.  Sometimes this means you’ll find smoke damage within HVAC vents, sometimes you’ll find the most smoke damage behind walls.  Often it can be found in household furnishings and it’s not uncommon to find smoke damage within light fittings and electrical sockets.  Even if you cannot see any smoke there could be still be smoke particles which you cannot see.   This is what is so dangerous as it’s the smoke particles which are a health risk.

What is smoke damage?

Smoke damage is the physical damage caused by smoke that’s generated by a fire, not the damage caused by the fire itself.  Caused by the remnants of the fuel that fed the fire, smoke does not destroy items like fire does.   Instead, it coats objects in soot and odor.

The composition of smoke is complex,  but often results in a greasy layer making it particularly difficult to remove.   Even so, no matter how small or large the fire, smoke will want to travel to cooler areas and will use whatever means available to get there.   This can include ducts, wiring, pipes, or any other crevices.  This means that smoke has often reached places you cannot even see.  While smoke may seem to dissipate quickly the quick cooling of the particles leave a film and odor able to penetrate the contents of a building and its structure.

Can fire smoke damage make you sick?

Fire damage is heat damage and is what causes objects to melt and burn.  Smoke damage doesn’t destroy items like fire damage does.   However, they are both incredibly hazardous to health.  The number one cause of death related to fires is smoke inhalation.   This occurs when the products of combustion are inhaled during a fire.

Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases and it’s impossible to predict its exact make up.  The items burned, temperatures reached and the amount of oxygen available all play a critical part in determining the type of smoke produced.   For example, wood fires create a completely different kind of smoke to protein fires.

Not only can smoke inhalation cause burns to the respiratory system, but it can cause further complications which can result in death or permanent damage. Coughing, vomiting, nausea, confusion and sleepiness are all signs of smoke inhalation.  During smoke inhalation, you have more carbon monoxide in your lungs which prohibits oxygen into your body.   Prolonged exposure to smoke inhalation can result in death or permanent brain damage.

Health risks of staying in a smoke damaged house

Many people might think that the health risks of fires are removed once the fire is put out, sad to say, this isn’t entirely accurate.  Smoke can be incredibly toxic. Tar and carbon are just two of its common byproducts, but smoke can also contain heavy metals and other toxins.   If these are breathed in over a period of time, they can go on to cause health implications.

Breathing can become difficult if staying in a smoke damaged house.  Lungs and sinuses can be affected directly making breathing hard.  Residual particles in clothing and furnishings can irritate the skin, which normally cannot be treated with lotions.   Sometimes, these skin irritations can be severe.  To be safe, even if you cannot see any smoke damage it’s vital that you have SERVPRO of Champaign/Urbana come in and complete a thorough clean and decontamination of the entire property.  


It’s not just the immediate fire that’s a risk to your health.   Staying in a property that’s had a fire, whether you can see smoke damage or not, is a risk to you and your family's health.  Give SERVPRO of Champaign/Urbana and speak to one of our friendly team members today at 217-355-0077!  We are here to help!

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