Recent Fire Damage Posts
Do’s and Don’ts of a Grease Fire
If you have a grease fire in your San Antonio home, it is important to know what to do and not do.
Grease fires can be extremely devastating and can cause serious damage to your home and personal belongings. A grease fire occurs when cooking oil or fat overheats and ignites. These fires can spread quickly and are difficult to extinguish, making them particularly dangerous.
When faced with a fire, call 911 immediately. Do not delay in seeking help. If you are able to do so safely, get everyone out of the house and wait for the fire department to arrive. If not, make sure that you get out yourself and then call 911 as soon as possible.
If you have time, try to move away from potential hazards such as walls or other flammable materials before attempting to put out the flames.
If there is a grease fire in your kitchen or another area where it would be difficult to evacuate everyone safely, keep an extinguisher nearby at all times just in case an emergency arises where one would be needed. When using a fire extinguisher, remember to aim at the base of the flames. You will need to spray the fire until it is completely out.
If you are unfamiliar with how to use a fire extinguisher, make sure that you get training before attempting an emergency response. If you do not know what kind of fire extinguisher to use or how to actually operate it, leave the area and call 911 instead.
Do not use water to put out a grease fire—this will only spread the flames! Instead, grab a lid or baking pan and slide it over a small grease fire in your pan or pot. Put on oven mitts and remove any other nearby items that could catch fire (such as paper towels) before sliding the lid over the top of the pan/pot with confidence; be sure not to drop it into your burning oil!
If you find yourself in a situation where there is a grease fire, do not panic. Try to remain calm and assess the situation. If you can do this without panicking, then your chances of successfully extinguishing the fire will be much higher.
If you have a grease fire in your San Antonio home, it is important to know what to do and not do. You should never try to put out a fire with water or any other liquid. The best response is to stay calm and call 911 as soon as possible. When it comes to cleaning up your home and contents after a fire, give SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio a call and we’ll be out to help clean up and restore your home in no time.
3 Ways To Prevent Cigarette Fires
As long as you take preventative measures to avoid a cigarette fire, you won't have to worry about contacting fire restoration professionals.
Prevent Cigarette Fires
Would it surprise you to learn that in 2014 alone, upward of $400 million in residential property damage was caused by cigarette-related sources? From how smokers dispose of cigarettes to where in the house they choose to light up, each use indoors comes with a certain degree of risk. Here are three tips to protect your house from a potential cigarette fire.
1. Don't Smoke in the House
The average American has dozens of combustible chemicals in their home, including air fresheners, cleaning solutions, cosmetics, and cooking sprays. These materials can act as prime fuel sources when exposed to the heat given off by cigarettes. These agents often build up on the carpet and furniture. Outdoor smoking is one of the easiest ways to alleviate the danger of a cigarette fire.
2. Dispose of Cigarettes Safely
You may also have to worry about an ashtray fire if you smoke. To prevent an ashtray from tipping over and becoming a fire hazard, you should purchase a deep, wide-brimmed one, which will be inherently more stable. Even when putting a cigarette into an ashtray, it's critical to make certain that the butt is completely out. Submerging spent cigarettes in water can guarantee that they pose no danger. Keeping ashtrays away from your house is also an option.
3. Educate Your Family To Avoid a Fire Cleanup
Having a serious conversation with any children in the household can make all the difference. They need to understand that cigarettes, lighters, and matches are not toys to be played with. Whether your family lives in San Antonio, TX, or any other part of America, the training will be equally beneficial.
As long as you take preventative measures to avoid a cigarette fire, you won't have to worry about contacting fire restoration professionals. These tips can help keep you and your family safe for years to come.
When a Fire Happens
Our vans are ready to head your way!
Common households in San Antonio, TX mishaps happen all the time. However, most of these don’t involve an insurance claim. Throughout the United States, household kitchen fires occur every 18 seconds! That statistic is mind blowing! The typical scenario is when the cook becomes distracted and the stovetop is left unattended.
Phone calls, a knock at the door, children calling for their parent’s attention are all common reasons we hear for the cause.
Here at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio, we’re well equipped to react to these calls, typically, responding and on-site the day of the event.
With state-the-art cleaning supplies and chemicals partnered with industry-leading training for all our technicians, SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio can handle any size job that comes our way.
Most fire/smoke damage clean-ups take 3-5 days, involving structure cleaning of the walls, ceilings, and floors, HVAC system, and air duct cleanings.
Soot spares no one and contents is also part of the job scope when performing smoke damage mitigation cleaning. Hard surface furniture, sofas, chairs, and other upholstered items are cleaned including Bric a Brac items in drawers and cabinets. Literally, everything in the home gets cleaned. By the end of the job, the house is the cleanest it’s ever been!
We here at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio are ready for the unexpected. We’ve planned and prepared for your emergency.
Should the unexpected happen to you. Please know we’re here to make it “Like it never even happened.”
How To React to a Gas Leak
The best way to avoid a gas fire is to react quickly to a leak. Typically, you will identify a leak by smelling sulfur or rotten eggs.
What To Do If There Is a Gas Leak
While gas delivery systems are very safe, the pipes can still deteriorate and leak with age. A gas leak can quickly turn into a gas fire or explosion. These can quickly burn through your home and cause a lot of damage. If you want to avoid this unpleasant situation, you need to know the signs of a leak and what to do in this emergency.
What To Do if You Smell Gas
The best way to avoid a gas fire is to react quickly to a leak. Typically, you will identify a leak by smelling sulfur or rotten eggs. If you smell gas, you need to do the following:
- Leave the area and get to safety
- Call the utility provider and let them know about the leak
- Call 911 to notify fire officials
- Help others evacuate and stay clear of the area until it is proven safe
- Call a fire remediation company to help remove the smell and any potential damage from your home in San Antonio, TX.
Other Ways To Identify Gas
Most people identify natural gas by its smell. While the gas itself is odorless, a sulfur-based odorant is added to give it the associated rotten egg smell so it can easily be identified. However, this is not the only way to identify this substance. If you are outdoors, you can often see it. Any gas escaping from an underground pipeline will be recognizable by the discolored soil and dead vegetation around the line.
You can also identify a potential gas fire threat in your home by listening. If you hear a high-pitched whistle or hissing noise, there is a chance that this is caused by escaping gas from your pipes.
If you want to avoid a gas explosion or fire, you must react appropriately. Knowing the signs of a leak and what to do in this event can help you avoid devastation.
3 Tips To Prevent a Candle Fire
It only takes a matter of minutes for a candle fire to spread to other parts of your home. Call us if you need help!
3 Candle Fire Prevention Tips
Candles are a popular choice in San Antonio, TX, for lighting, décor, ceremonial uses, and even fragrance. While they can be beautiful, candles can also be dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 21 candle fires are reported each day. It only takes a matter of minutes for a candle fire to spread to other parts of your home. These tips can help you use candles safely.
1. Pay Attention to Placement
Be sure to put candles in a sturdy holder or container that won’t be easily knocked over. Place the holder on a flat, sturdy surface. Choose a location that is safely away from children and pets and is at least 12 inches away from anything flammable, such as books, decorations, curtains, furniture, paper, or clothing. Avoid candles if anyone in your home uses an oxygen tank.
2. Don’t Walk Away
Never leave a burning candle unattended, especially if there are other people in the house. Keep an eye on the wax level and be sure to put the candle out before it gets too low. If the flame gets too close to the bottom of the container or side of the holder, the holder could become extremely hot or even explode, sparking a candle fire.
3. Consider Alternatives
Today, there are many options available that mimic a candle’s soft, flickering glow. Battery-operated flameless candles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Because they don’t emit heat, these candle alternatives can be safely used just about anywhere. If scent is your primary motivation for using candles, consider using a fragrance diffuser with scented essential oils, or a plug-in air freshener. If you keep candles on hand for power outages, swap them for battery-powered flashlights. Keep fresh batteries with the flashlights to be sure you’re prepared.
A flickering candle may look lovely or smell amazing, but no candle is worth the potential injuries, smoke cleanup, and structural repairs that can accompany a candle fire.
How To Check Your Home's Alarm System
Regardless of the replacement for the battery, fire remediation experts recommend that you test each smoke alarm every month to make sure it's working
How To Examine Your Home's Security System
Despite the efforts you make to ensure your home in San Antonio, TX, is safe, no home is completely fireproof. A working smoke alarm system is a vital part of an adequate emergency preparedness system. Older smoke alarms need replacement batteries once a year, but the rules change as you upgrade your detectors. Following these inspection tips can help keep your system in top form.
First, you want to make sure all your detectors have power. The power source depends on the type of smoke detector you have in your system:
- Battery-operated detectors (9-volt batteries) should have the batteries replaced every year.
- Battery-operated detectors (lithium batteries) should be completely replaced every ten years.
- Hardwired systems should have the backup battery replaced yearly, and the detectors replaced every ten years.
Regardless of the replacement for the battery or detector, fire remediation experts recommend that you test each smoke alarm every month to make sure it's working. Don't rely strictly on a schedule. Replace faulty alarms whenever necessary.
No matter where your detectors get their power, all of them must be replaced every ten years to keep the system in shape for detecting fire damage. Checking the age of the devices in your system is easy. Remove each detector from the ceiling or wall and turn it over. The date of manufacture should be printed on the back. As long as the date is within the last ten years and the device is still working, it does not need to be replaced. Return it to its designated spot and make sure that it is linked with the rest of the system.
Testing your smoke alarm system once a month is a crucial part of home maintenance. If you have outdated detectors or your power source is not properly supporting the system, prompt maintenance can help keep you safe during a home fire.
Deck Those Halls With Evergreen “Life”…Not An Incendiary “Light!”
We appreciate the hope and life, represented by those holiday evergreen decorations, but ALSO want to avoid turning it into an unwelcome fiery light!
Those nature-loving Druids definitively established the precedent of featuring evergreens during the holiday season. While the outside world became dormant, the aptly-named evergreen trees and foliage offered a sense of hope and celebrated the perseverance of new life that would emerge when spring arrived.
Eventually, we not only adorned and celebrated this greenery surrounding us outside, but expanded the joy by bringing nature’s winter bounty indoors. And here we are, millennia later, decking those halls with every imaginable form of evergreen…along with increasingly-elaborate decorations. Whether brightly-colored ribbons, lights that sparkle and twinkle, glistening tinsel and metallic reflectors, or a festive combination of every embellishment imaginable, we have certainly elevated that original humble Druid tree!
However, while those trees and lush garlands bring the “light” of hope during the darker days of winter, the tendency to enhance that “light” with our own forms of illumination ALSO represents some possible “dark” outcomes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has compiled some chilling statistics involving holiday incendiary mishaps:
- One in five home decoration fires happened in December between 2015 and 2019.
- Between 2015 and 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 950 house fires a year caused by Christmas decorations.
- Christmas lights and candles and other Christmas decorations were the cause of 790 of those fires, and caused an average of one death, 26 injuries and $13 million in property damage each year.
- The remaining 160 involved Christmas trees and caused an average of two deaths, 12 injuries and $10 million in damages annually.
- Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires. Using too many, old or damaged extensions cords can overload an outlet and cause a dangerous situation.
- Nearly one in five Christmas tree fires was started by decorative lights, with eight percent started by candles.
- Roughly two of every five home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.
- Year round, more than one-third (35%) of home decoration fires were started by candles. This jumped to almost half in December when candles started 45% of such fires. Cooking started one-fifth (19%) of decoration fires.
Don’t dismay…we don’t want to put a damper on your holiday cheer! Thanks to insights gained from hard-won experience, the NFPA offers tips for you to SAFELY deck those halls:
- Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights, and is not blocking an exit
- Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water DAILY.
- As Christmas trees dry out, they become more and more flammable. Thirty percent of Christmas tree fires were in January. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, they can grow very fast.
- Be careful with holiday decorations. Choose decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant. This includes artificial trees, if that is your preferred alternative to a live evergreen.
- Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn.
- Use lights that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of light strands to connect.
- Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged.
- Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
- Keep decorations away from windows and doors.
- Test your smoke alarms and tell guests about your home fire escape plan.
- Keep children and pets away from lit candles.
- Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside. Remind them to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
- Provide large, deep ashtrays for smokers. Wet cigarette butts with water before discarding them.
We have seen holiday joy turned into pure heartbreak in the blink of an eye, as the “go-to” experts in fire damage mitigation, remediation and restoration. And our SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio team wants you to be able to deck those halls with that evergreen “life”…while avoiding the consequences of an unexpected incendiary “light!”
"FIRE" Is Just The Starting Point For Firefighters!
You need look no further than the sterling examples firefighters nationwide set as they dealt with the aftermath of 9-11…and so much more!
With summer outdoor activities beginning to wind down, we see more and more people return to the gym for their fitness workouts. However, aside from the aforementioned seasonal influx, we also see an increase in another group – wearing surprising outfits – on treadmills and stair climbers around this time of year. These individuals aren’t sporting sweats or joggers or even fashionable Lycra; they proudly wear up to 77 pounds of firefighter equipment!
Photographs, videos and news stories features these dedicated first responders, as well as the family and friends, who choose to symbolically honor the memory of those who fell in the wake of 9-11. Many wearing full firefighter gear, and others who may just be physically unable to bear the additional weight, ALL nonetheless commit to replicate the steps of those who climbed the 110 STORIES of the World Trade Center towers on that fateful day. Some even make it an annual ritual, which will be all the more poignant this year as we mark the 20th anniversary of the national tragedy.
We all watched in rapt horror as the events unfolded in real time, observing the surreal scenes as if it were something out of a movie…and saw the altruistic bravery of those first responders whose sole focus was saving lives, too often at the price of their own lives. And in the intervening years, we see this same selfless dedication time and again at the sites of both natural and man-made disasters.
When we hear the term “firefighter” normally we picture someone racing into a burning building or maybe someone in an ambulance or even a friendly “helper” who rescues kittens from trees. And all would be correct…but by no means complete! Yes, “fire” may be their initial reason for existence. However, these days it seems no matter the scope or nature of disaster, you will find “firefighters” among the first responders on the scene. In fact, the phrase “first responder” now immediately brings to mind fire department members.
“First responders” to the recent tragic collapse of the Miami Surfside condominium? Firefighters. “First responders” to the deadly Tennessee floods? Firefighters. “First responders” to the deadly California Montecito mudslides? Firefighters. And just this week…”first responders” to the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast in the path of Hurricane Ida? Yep – firefighters. And, of course, there are those actual fires, too, like the on-going Pacific Northwest infernos. And in each of these search-and-rescue operations, or disaster responses, they not only WILLINGLY walk (or, more aptly, run) into these situations, they do it wearing anywhere between 60 and 77 extra pounds of specialized equipment!
As disaster remediation and recovery specialists at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio, we’ve seen this dedication more times than we can count! And the upcoming 20th anniversary of 9-11 hits particularly close to home for one of our franchises – who actually were a part of the Pentagon restoration team after the Sept. 11th attack!
And although we frequently say we meet people on one of the worst days of their lives, our encounters can’t hold a candle to what firefighters see EVERY day. In our restoration work, we literally SEE what these first responders had to fight before we’re ever called. Thanks to our specialized training and equipment, in most of these scenes we really CAN make it “Like it never even happened.” However, as we prepare to commemorate the 9-11 firefighter sacrifices, we also honor those lives that can never be truly whole again…with our heartfelt thanks!
When Making Your Home “Next Level” Don’t “Level-Up” Your Fire Risk!
As more people invest in taking their homes to the “next level,” many overlook a lurking fire hazard if they didn’t “level-up” the electrical system!
We know there are “glass-half-full” and “glass-half-empty” people, and we choose to be those “half-full” folks, trying to find the silver lining behind every dark cloud. And, let’s face it, the past 18 months have been a GIGANTIC thunderhead! Yet, we’ve managed to see some positive effects, such as appreciating time with our families, discovering new hobbies and interests, and taking our personal spaces to the “next level.”
Some of it could be attributed to binge-watching all of those HGTV design shows, while a lot of it could be for purely practical reasons as our homes became offices and schools and gyms and… So renovation fever swept the nation, and as things now begin to slowly open up, we continue to make improvements as many “post-COVID” lifestyles have evolved from what used to be “normal.”
It may have begun with a fresh paint color or a few new accessories, then progressed to some updated lighting fixtures and a few built-ins. The next thing you know, you have a smart home with state-of-the-art “connected” appliances and integrated entertainment systems…complete with a new wet bar, wine cooler and built-in beer tap.
Hey, you deserve it; and let’s get real, sometimes it’s a lot more enjoyable to be able to spend an evening – complete with entertainment or a meal from your gourmet kitchen – with a few friends, in the comfort of your little cocoon. No traffic, no parking, no crowds of strangers, no waiting in lines, and no expensive price tag…c’mon what’s not to like?!? And considering that your home is probably your single biggest investment, it’s never a bad idea to enhance its livability and value.
And especially if your work has remained partially (if not fully) remote, you really did need a functional dedicated space. After all, the kitchen island or dining room table could (or should) never be considered a permanent, full-time office! But, with a little home improvement wizardry, you now have a built-in desk and shelves, space for your laptop, external monitor and printer, and now, halo light, upgraded microphone and web cam for all of those remote conferences.
Now you’ve created your perfect sanctuary…ideal for work and play! However, have you also created the “perfect storm” for an electrical fire? We’re the first to admit, all of that talk about amps and wattage (aside from those tables on the side of microwave packages with time/watt instructions), leaves us pretty confused. But, one way to understand this concept actually comes from the movie “Apollo 13”…no kidding!
If you’ve never seen it, we highly recommend this gripping account of the ill-fated mission to the Moon. Anyway, the ground crew must find a way to power the astronauts’ safe return to Earth with a severely limited battery supply. They add and remove different items to arrive at the perfect mathematical amperage formula, while still ensuring the crew has enough power to perform the necessary functions for a successful re-entry. SPOILER ALERT: They do it!
Well, the electrical box for your home works in much the same way. Different appliances and electrical items in your home pull varying wattages and amps. If you’ve ever had to flip a breaker switch because it became overloaded, this is exactly why…that appliance exceeded the safe limit. The breaker switch does just what its name implies; it breaks the electrical connection to prevent it from becoming a hazard. Overloaded circuits can overheat and spark – all out of sight behind your walls.
So that spare bedroom, which transformed beautifully into a practical home office, may have only been wired for a couple of bedside lamps, maybe a small TV and alarm clock. Now you’re running computers and high-tech gadgets galore on circuits NEVER designed to carry that kind of load. And chances are, this may also be the designated space for your home’s modem box and other internet connectivity hubs. Even something as "little" as a couple of added power strips may be all it takes to push the limits of your existing electrical system.
Of course, that added wine cooler and drawer-style microwave and smart refrigerator or mesmerizing new electrical fireplace with integrated smart TV and speaker system built-in above it, have definitely enhanced your life and home. However, they may also be drawing a LOT more amps than your previous kitchen or family room. Who knows, you may have been pushing the limits of your current electrical box BEFORE…so imagine what it could be now!
Depending upon when your home was initially built, it may be time to take your electrical system to the “next level” to keep up with all of your improvements. Every time you have to run and flip the break switch, take that as a warning that something caused it to flip – and poses serious danger to you and your loved ones. For your peace of mind, start with a little detective work. If your switches are not labeled, take the time to find out which switch controls which circuits in your home – then carefully label them. Now you can pinpoint the culprit.
It could be something small, which just requires moving the offending item(s) to a different electrical switch point. Or…it could save your life! As specialists in fire damage mitigation, remediation and restoration, our SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio team has seen the heartbreaking aftermath of an electrical fire. And that’s why we would MUCH rather sow an ounce of prevention, than for you to have to call us for that pound of cure. That’s how WE take our business to the “next level”…by “leveling up” our customer service and compassion!
Are You Ready To “Get Lit”?!? – Part II
You’re INTENTIONALLY setting a fire…so to avoid setting MORE afire, aside from your sticks and branches, make sure your pit is truly “fire-worthy!”
If there has been one positive outcome from the year-long COVID lockdown, it’s been the opportunity to genuinely connect with those closest to us. We’ve discovered the joy in spending quiet time together, sharing stories which may have otherwise been lost to our previous “busy-ness” and appreciating the simple pleasures to be found right under our own roof.
Especially after the late-season Arctic blasts and thunderous storms here in Central Texas, that urge to just get OUT has a powerful pull. And while people still continue to observe some of the social distancing and limited contact precautions, outdoor activities – especially grills and fire pits – seem tailor-made to scratch that outdoor “itch”…safely. However, while it may be COVID-safe, without taking important safety steps BEFORE you ever “get lit” your activities could really “flame-out” FAST!
In the first installment of this series on outdoor fire safety, we discussed the vital preparations to enjoy a safe grilling and outdoor cooking season. So now we move on to those other outdoor fire spaces. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, fire pits or outdoor fireplaces are the MOST popular backyard design features! And we can definitely appreciate the appeal…not to mention their ability to enhance both lifestyles AND house values. But these benefits can literally disappear in a puff of smoke, if you fail to observe the proper safety measures.
So we’re going back to the same source we consulted for our earlier post on grilling safety – a blog post on the Nationwide Insurance site – to outline a few simple precautions to ensure no mishaps interrupt your outdoor fire pit fun:
PREPARING YOUR OUTDOOR FIRE PIT
- Make sure the ground or surface is flat and even to reduce the risk of fire escaping beyond your fire pit and clear all foliage (including grass) from the area.
- To keep your fire from causing damage, build the fire pit at least 10 FEET from your home, fences, trees, etc.
- Smooth stones from river beds may have absorbed moisture over time and can heat rapidly and explode. Instead of river stones, build your fire pit with dry, rough stones.
USING YOUR OUTDOOR FIRE PIT
- Avoid using your fire pit on windy days, since flames or embers can spread to your home, yard and nearby trees.
- Never use gasoline or kerosene to start your fire; such fuels can cause a fire to get out of control quickly. Instead, use dry wood as kindling that doesn’t extend beyond the edge of the pit.
- Even if your fire pit is small, flames can spread quickly if left unattended. Monitor the fire at all
- Make sure guests maintain a proper distance and don’t exhibit risky behavior. Keep close tabs on children and pets.
EXTINGUISHING YOUR OUTDOOR FIRE PIT
- Once you extinguish your fire with water, gently stir and spread the ashes to cool. Leave only when they’re cool to the touch.
- Keep a fire extinguisher, garden hose or bucket of sand close to douse the fire in case it gets out of hand. If you can’t put it out quickly, call 9-1-1.
We have also gathered some additional information from a Consumer Reports article on outdoor safety, focusing on fire pits:
“During the height of the pandemic lockdown, fire pits were twice as popular in online search as they've been in recent years…But here's a not-so-fun fact: There are at least 5,300 injuries per year related to fire pits or outdoor heaters that send people to the emergency room, according to 2017 data from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
“So whether you gather around a portable fire pit, a built-in fireplace, a chiminea, or a simple stone-hedged hole in the ground, here's how to play it safe.”
- Always place a spark screen on top of the pit once you’ve built the fire.
- Keep a garden hose on hand as well to douse the flames if they get out of control.
- NEVER use a bucket of water. “Dumping water on a wood-burning fire forms a hard crust on top of remaining wood, coals, and ash, and causes a lot of water to run off,” says Chuck Roydhouse, a veteran career firefighter and president of the Chimney Safety Institute of America. “As a result, you may not quench the fire completely, and still have hot coals burning underneath the crust."
CHOOSE WOOD WISELY
- Avoid the softest woods like cedar or pine, which tend to smoke and spark, says Leroy Hite, owner of Cutting Edge Firewood in Atlanta.
- Get hardwoods like ash, hickory, and oak, which burn the longest. Hickory has a strong, classic “campfire” scent while oak is virtually odorless.
- You can also try a wood that’s moderately hard, such as cherry, which has a sweet aroma, or birch, which doesn’t smoke or spark much.
With the warming springtime days and cool evenings, we can already taste those yummy s’mores lovingly toasted around a fire pit. This is the stuff of fond memories…and a fleeting opportunity to share time with those near and dear. Just make sure those memories DON’T include a runaway fire! And, if more than your logs “get lit” then help is just a phone call away with the experienced fire restoration team at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio.
Are You Ready To “Get Lit”?!? – Part III
As Smoky the Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”…and the damage to both nature AND your possessions an out-of-control campfire can cause!
In this installment of our series on fire safety, we venture a little further away from hearth and home. As we’ve previously addressed both grilling and backyard fire pit safety, let’s REALLY “get away from it all” at camp sites. And what would camping be without the requisite camp fire?!?
Whether you choose to really “rough it” with a tent and backpack, or opt for a “glamping” option in a luxury RV or cabin, the rules for keeping yourself and your possessions safe remain the same when it comes to building a campfire! Whereas you have a more “controlled” environment in your own backyard, in the great outdoors fire hazards will be much more plentiful…and possibly unknown to you and your fellow campers.
So we’ve gone to the ULTIMATE authority on campfire safety – Smoky the Bear! Everyone remembers that kindly bear reminding us that “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Regardless of whether you were an Eagle Scout or just beginning to explore the wonders of camping, we could all use a little refresher course from that cuddly bear.
According to the website, 87% of all wildfires were caused by humans in 2019 alone. So taking the proper safety measures before you decide to “get lit” outdoors is more important than ever:
HOW TO PICK YOUR CAMPFIRE SPOT
- DO NOT build a campfire if the campground, area or event rules prohibit them. Sometimes digging of pits may be prohibited due to archaeological or other concerns.
- DO NOT build a campfire in hazardous, dry conditions.
- FIND OUT if the campground has an existing fire ring or fire pit.
- If there is not an existing fire pit, and pits are allowed, choose a site at least 15 feet from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Beware of low-hanging branches.
- Choose an open, level location away from heavy fuels such as logs, brush or decaying leaves.
- Take wind, and its direction, into account when choosing the site. Choose a spot that’s protected from gusts.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR CAMPFIRE PIT
- Clear a 10-foot-diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves and firewood.
- Dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.
- Circle the pit with rocks.
- Your campfire pit is built and ready for building a campfire!
HOW TO BUILD YOUR CAMPFIRE
- First, make sure you have a source of water, a bucket and shovel nearby at all times.
- Gather three types of wood from the ground.
- Tinder: Small twigs, and dry leaves, grass & needles.
- Kindling: Sticks smaller than 1″
- Fuel: Larger pieces of wood. Keep these stacked upwind, away from the fire.
- Never cut whole trees or branches, dead or alive. Live materials won’t burn, and you’ll be damaging the forest. Dead standing trees often are homes for birds and other wildlife.
- Loosely pile a few handfuls of tinder in the center of the fire pit.
- Add kindling in one of these methods:
- Best for cooking
- Teepee: Lay the kindling over the tinder like you’re building a tent.
- Lean-to: Drive a long piece of kindling into the ground at an angle over the tinder. Lean smaller pieces of kindling against the longer piece.
Best for long-lasting campfires
- Cross: Crisscross the kindling over the tinder.
- Log Cabin: Surround your pile of tinder with kindling, stacking pieces at right angles. Top the “cabin” with the smallest kindling.
- Ignite the tinder with a match or lighter.
- Wait until the match is cold, and discard it into the fire.
- Add more tinder as the fire grows.
- Blow lightly at the base of the fire.
- Add kindling and fuel – the larger firewood – to keep the fire going.
- Keep the fire small and under control.
HOW TO MAINTAIN & EXTINGUISH YOUR CAMPFIRE
- Never cut whole trees or branches, dead or alive. Live materials won’t burn and dead standing trees — called “snags” — are often homes for birds and other wildlife.
- Once you have a strong fire going, add larger pieces of dry wood to keep it burning steadily.
- Don’t burn dangerous things like aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass or aluminum cans. They could explode, shatter and/or create harmful fumes or dust.
- Keep your fire to a manageable size.
- Make sure children and pets are supervised near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended.
HOW TO PROPERLY EXTINGUISH YOUR CAMPFIRE
- Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
- Pour lots of water on the fire. Drown ALL embers, not just the red ones. Pour until hissing sound stops.
- If you do not have water, stir dirt or sand into the embers with a shovel to bury the fire.
- With your shovel, scrape any remaining sticks and logs to remove any embers. Make sure that no embers are exposed and still smoldering.
- Continue adding water, dirt or sand and stirring with a shovel until all material is cool.
- Remember: If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
Of course, we encourage you to also review the earlier safety tips about outdoor cooking and recreational fires…because when you “play with fire” it’s deceptively easy to get “burned.” And, while we cannot undo any damage caused to Mother Nature by a runaway campfire, we DO have options for your fire and smoke damaged possessions!
Can’t get the smoke smell out of your camping gear? WE can! A fire-damaged vehicle (that was NOT “totaled”) after your expedition? Yep, we have vehicle restoration experts, TOO! That’s right, our fire damage expertise in not exclusively limited to homes or businesses…with SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio, even when your adventures get a little “too hot to handle” you can count on us to help you to once again enjoy the pleasures of “getting lit!”
Are You Ready To “Get Lit”?!? – Part I
A few preparatory steps BEFORE enjoying those outdoor grilling and cooking activities, can enhance the experience AND safety for everyone!
With warmer temperatures, longer days, early springtime foliage and the increased rollout of vaccines, ‘tis the season to begin enjoying all of the outdoor opportunities that await right outside our doors. Add in the sheer abandon of spring breaks, coupled with Easter and Passover festivities, to be shortly followed by Memorial Day, and you’ve got the perfect formula for outdoor fun!
And what goes better with those bucolic activities, than grilling on the BBQ, roasting marshmallows around a fire pit or sharing songs and stories during a bonfire on a camping getaway? Let’s face it, since the dawn of modern man those “fire-centric” activities have had a primal appeal.
However, BEFORE you decide it’s time to “get lit” we urge you to take a few preparatory steps! Just as we urged you to observe a few preventative measures when “fireplace season” began, enjoying that fire outdoors also requires proper safety.
So let’s start with another of those “primal urges” – food – and our beloved grills where we so lovingly cook those smoky treats. According to a blog post on the Nationwide Insurance site, “in 2013-2017 outdoor grilling caused an annual average of 10,200 home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Surprisingly, gas grills are actually the source of more home fires than charcoal grills, the association adds. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 64% of households own a gas grill, 44% own a charcoal grill and 9% own an electric grill.” And they offer these nine tips to help you get “fired up” safely:
- Grill outside and away from any structures
Charcoal and gas grills are designed for outdoor use only. However, NFPA reports that more than one-quarter (27%) of home fires started by outdoor grills began in a courtyard, terrace or patio, and 29% started on an exterior balcony or open porch. Pay attention to overhanging tree branches when you set up your grill. And make sure you keep any aprons, towels or other fabrics away from areas with flying sparks.
- Make sure your grill is stable
Only set up your grill on a flat surface and make sure the grill can’t be tipped over. Consider using a grill pad or splatter mat underneath your grill to protect your deck or patio.
- Keep your grill clean
Remove grease or fat buildup from both the grill and the tray below the grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to completely cool before disposing of them in a metal container.
- Check for propane leaks on your gas grill
Before the season’s first barbecue, check the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and then turning on the gas. If there is a propane leak, the solution will bubble. Other signs of a propane leak include the smell of gas near the barbecue or a flame that won’t light.
- If the flame goes out, wait to re-light
If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, and then wait at least five minutes to re-light it.
- Take care around the grill
Never leave a lit grill unattended. Don’t allow kids or pets to play near the grill. Never try to move a lit or hot grill, and remember the grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use.
- Use charcoal starter fluid carefully
If you use a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which uses newspaper to start the fire instead of starter fluid.
- Wear the right clothing
Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.
- Be prepared to put out the fire, if needed
Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. NEVER use water to put out grease fire.
Nothing can spoil a beautiful springtime afternoon or evening enjoying the “fruits” of your outdoor grilling talents, than a fire that unexpectedly – and surprisingly quickly – getting out of control. So while we hope you look forward to sparking up some fiery fun in this changing season, we also understand these accidents DO happen…and SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio stands ready to help restore any unintended effects of “getting lit!”
“Been There, Done That…Wish I STILL Had The T-Shirt”
Alongside first responders & insurance claim specialists, don't forget the SERVPRO restoration professionals as key members of your fire response team
At some point, we’ve listened as someone recounted the story of an adventure or particular mishap, and no matter how engaged you may have been by the tale, these sorts of things usually end with the sentiment: “You just had to be there!”
Yet, even the most talented wordsmith cannot capture the excitement, the adrenalin rush or the raw emotion of actually living through something. Honestly – well, you know – you just had to be there! So when talking about things like tornadoes, hurricanes and fires, sometimes it IS best to hear it directly from someone who’s “been there, done that” and STILL wishes she had the T-shirt…our own intrepid staffer who brought us previous posts about her hurricane experiences.
“Although I’ve been through hurricanes, floods, blizzards and yes, even an earthquake, for some reason the vivid details of the fires I have personally experienced have stuck with me like nothing else. And while none was terribly devastating from a property damage or personal injury standpoint (thank goodness), the feeling of total helplessness proved more overwhelming than ANY natural disaster I’ve endured.
“But, despite a few smaller incendiary incidents in my teens and early twenties, the one we had in our big old Victorian home in Grand Rapids, MI definitely had a major impact on our household that I will never forget. Now, imagining a rambling historic home, it would be natural to think the source might have been outdated wiring, an aging fireplace or an oil-fueled furnace malfunction. Wrong! Take one second-hand apartment dryer (we were newlyweds and still using leftover appliances from our single days), put it in an upstairs room, and add a broken belt that no longer turned the dryer drum and suddenly you have a smoke-filled house – all three floors!
“Although no structural damage resulted, the 'vintage' (translated from old and ugly) wallpaper in that room definitely took a hit…as did ALL of our clothes and upstairs furniture. Let me tell you, that smell of smoke permeates EVERYTHING and can haunt you for days, and even weeks.
“We were fortunate that a couple of firefighters and our insurance agent gave us some helpful suggestions to help ‘restore’ our clothes and furniture. For days on end, we had huge batches of washable clothes soaking in a DIY concoction of household ingredients filling our huge ancient cast iron bathtub, to remove both the smoke stains AND smells. We had to cross our fingers for those treasured ‘dry-clean only’ items – and had some personal casualties among them.
“Then, there was that SMELL in the walls and the floors and the wood of our carefully collected antique furniture items. We actually had to move our mattress downstairs into the formal dining room…so much for looking and acting like ‘grown-ups’ as it looked like we’d reverted to early college décor!
“And while we had started to casually look for a home to purchase (as we had only recently moved to Grand Rapids and been leasing), the fire DEFINITELY added a new urgency to our search! Our solution to escape the smoke and fire aftermath? We MOVED!
“It even took an antique furniture repair and restoration specialist to get the smell and haze from the smoke out of all the bedroom, hallway and even downstairs foyer pieces – which we did PRIOR to bringing them into our new “old” home. Honestly, we would have given almost ANYTHING at that point in our lives to have had someone like SERVPRO experts come in and handle the whole mess. After all I’ve seen as a team member at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio, I’m amazed at how they really CAN make it "Like it never even happened."
“And, although they can’t bring back the classic ELO glitter T-shirt that unfortunately was in the dryer when the drum stopped turning (eBay, where were you THEN? Hmmm…may have to do a search now), I’ve seen with my own eyes the miracles their specialized equipment, cleaning solutions and trained techs can work! And, if and when I ever have another fire ‘incident’ it’s comforting to know that someone who cares about restoring my possessions, my home or office, my peace of mind, and my life, is just one phone call away.”
All “Fired-Up”? CONGRATS…Or Condolences!
NO fire is a “small” fire, when it happens to you! And SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio is equipped to make it “Like it never even happened."
Have you ever thought about the word “fire”? Not just in terms of the physical element, but the WORD itself?!? It’s odd that such a “destructive” force can ALSO be used in positive terms. If your favorite sport team is having a winning season, it’s not at all uncommon to say they’re “on fire.” In fact, they could be “burning up” the field or court!
If someone is passionate or excited enough about a cause or project, we frequently say they’re “fired up” or “a ball of fire.” Or perhaps a visionary spawns a plan to revolutionize something; it might be said he’s either got “a fire in his belly” or has a mission to “set the world on fire.” All good things!
But things can QUICKLY take a turn – just like a, well, fire! If you choose to “play with fire” then you could find yourself “going from the frying pan and into the fire.” And everyone who has EVER been part of an argument knows that “adding fuel to the fire” can prove EXTREMELY hazardous! Then, there’s the one the majority of us hope to NEVER hear: “You’re fired.”
Yet, in one situation there’s no question which side of the “good-bad” fence THIS use of “fire” falls: “We had a fire.” No doubts whatsoever…this is a BAD thing. We offer sympathy and inquire if anyone was hurt. But make no mistake about it – even the “smallest” fire hurts! Even a quickly-contained fire in a kitchen skillet leaves damage. Damaged backsplash…damaged counters and cabinets…damaged floors…damaged walls…damaged sense of safety in one’s own home…yep, the damage is REAL!
Even if you manage to clean up the surface mess, that smell still lingers. Did you know that smells have the greatest power to trigger sense memories?!? So while the visible damage may be gone, the simple smell of smoke or something burning can cause you to relive the initial trauma.
Your nose and brain don’t realize the danger has already passed, and once again that “warning” sensation returns along with the same adrenaline rush. And, should the fire have been on a much larger scale, not only do you have to deal with the structural aftermath but the emotional “loss” as well. Treasured family mementos damaged by water, soot covering photos and your wedding china, furniture and clothing reeking of smoke, can feel emotionally overwhelming.
Honestly, you don’t know whether you need a restoration specialist or a trauma therapist! Sadly, our team at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio sees this all too often…and genuinely cares about restoring BOTH your possessions and home, AND your sense of well-being again. We’re experts at this; it’s what we do every day – and we do it extremely WELL! From smoke and water damage, to fine art restoration and air duct cleaning, with a healthy dose of sympathetic shoulder thrown in, we’re your one-stop shop for fire recovery. You might say we’re “fired up” about helping our neighbors make it “Like it never even happened.”
The “B(e)RRRR” Months Are HERE! Are You READY?
As you prepare to cuddle up next to the fireplace, just make sure you’re not “firing up” a LOT more!
While those of us in Texas may be positively beside ourselves at the prospect of temps dropping into the 50s and 60s overnight later this week, folks in areas to our near-north will be seeing their first SNOW of the season…in September! Yep – the first of the “-ber” months has arrived and with it the hope of finally dropping out of the inhumane 100-degree daily forecasts.
And in our autumnal enthusiasm, we start stocking up on logs for the fireplace and pulling those cozy sweaters out of the moth balls. After all, if Starbucks can start serving their annual pumpkin spice beverages when it’s still 103 outside, who are we to argue?!? However, our preparations for the cooler months here in Texas bear very little resemblance to those already feverishly underway in northern climes.
From switching out spring and summer screens to winter storm windows, to putting chains on tires and making annual arrangements for snow shoveling services, these rituals may seem alien to Texans. Yet, we NEED to be doing a lot more preparation for those “-ber” months than we might think – just like our northern neighbors!
Although we may NEVER see sub-zero temperatures (except in our Sub-Zero refrigerators!), we still need to perform some basic inspections and pre-winter maintenance around our homes AND businesses. Unfortunately, fire and water hazards don’t distinguish between 50 degrees and -15 degrees in many circumstances. It doesn’t have to be freezing outside for a dirty fireplace, dormant heater or damaged roof shingles to wreak havoc!
A simple ounce or two of prevention can forestall having to endure the expense and inconvenience of a subsequent cure. Sure, it may be a pain to clean out those gutters or stick your head into the fireplace, but just imagine the AGONY of having a preventable fire ravage your home or office. And the fire itself is the only the initial blow; there WILL be the inevitable “aftershocks!” Then there’s the smoke and water damage – and the inevitable impact on documents, treasured mementos, furniture, textiles and hidden infrastructure.
Considering the effects, doesn’t that “ounce of prevention” make a LOT more sense?!? Sadly, we do understand that sometimes, no matter HOW vigilant you may be, fires still happen. And we’ve seen the heartbreak all too often. However, with our expert fire damage services – and state-of-the-art equipment designed SPECIFICALLY for this purpose – we’re equipped to not only offer a sympathetic shoulder and caring advice, but to also provide complete document, furniture, textile and interior restorations.
For SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio our slogan “Like it never even happened,” is not just some motto printed on a wall or vehicle, it’s something we take to heart! We care about each and every member of our community and never want to see anyone go through the devastation even a small fire can bring. And that’s why we want to make sure you’re ready for the “-ber” months, BEFORE you “fire-up” more than a cold-weather cuddle!
Protecting your home against fire
One of our own at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio at our cookout
As the weather is getting warmer in South Texas, many of us are heading to our patios to grill and barbecue. With fires and gas grills, SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio wants to encourage you to be safe even when you're outside.
Should you have a smoke damage in your home, SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio is fully prepared to be there if you need us. We offer fogging and ozone services to help with smoke odors. We have trained personnel on staff that can clean your walls, furniture, and structure should smoke damage appear. And in the unfortunate situation of a house fire, we are able to pack out your home, clean your contents, and store your items while your home is being rebuilt.
We love to barbecue here at SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio. Enjoy the South Texas weather and be safe! Should an accident occur, give us a call 210-521-3313.
First Steps to take following a smoke damage
Allow SERVPRO Northwest San Antonio to do what we do best!
If you've had a smoke or fire damage in your home or business, here are some helpful steps you can take before SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio arrives.
- Try to limit walking in the affected area. This can help prevent soot being distributed in non-affected areas.
- Using a dry towel, wipe the soot from chrome fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Keep your hands clean. This will limit the spread of soot on other contents.
- Open doors and windows to decrease the smoke odor.
- Clean both sides of leaves on artificial houseplants with a damp cloth.
- Switch out your HVAC filters, but wait to turn your system on until a professional checks the system.
- Tape double layers of cheesecloth or similar over your ducts and registers to prevent soot particles from spreading in your home or business.
Additionally, here are some items NOT to do before SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio arrives:
- Do not attempt to wash any walls or painted surfaces
- Do not attempt to clean or work on any electrical appliances
- Do not eat or drink any food or liquid stored near the fire as it may be contaminated
- Do not attempt to shampoo or clean any upholstered furniture
- Do not turn on any ceiling fixtures if the ceiling is wet
- Do not send your damaged textiles (clothes, drapes, linens) to a cleaning company as improper cleaning could cause more damage.
SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio will eliminate smoke odor and clean your structure and contents to preloss condition. We also have electrical and textile companies that we work with that specialize in fire losses. Allow us to take care of all your needs when a fire occurs.
Call us today 210-521-3313.
Staying Safe and Warm for the Winter Season
The winter season is here and with it comes shorter days and lower temperatures. No matter where you live, winter brings a change in the weather. Many people use alternative heat sources like fireplaces, portable space heaters, and wood burning stoves to help keep homes cozy. Did you know, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths? According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment fires cause an estimated $1 billion in direct property damage annually.
Following safety tips to help reduce your risk of a heating-related fire.
- Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or a portable space heater.
- Have a three foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container.
- Keep the container a safe distance away from your home. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. Test smoke alarms monthly.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
If your property does suffer fire damage, contact your SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio to help make it “Like it never even happened.”
Our Fire Damage Restoration Services
Since each smoke and fire damage situation is a little different, each one requires a unique solution tailored for the specific conditions. We have the equipment, expertise, and experience to restore your fire and smoke damage. We will also treat your family with empathy and respect and your property with care.
Have Questions about Fire, Smoke, or Soot Damage?
Call Us Today – (210) 521-3313