Recognizing Hidden Hazards of Fire Soot on Electronics

Have you ever tried fixing your own electronics and appliances and ended up with extra parts? In the beginning of my career, I probably broke more electronic equipment than I ever repaired, but over the years I developed the skills needed to properly disassemble electronics and appliances as well as restore them to pre-loss condition. Also, along the way I learned a thing or two about the hidden hazards of fire soot.

According to the insurance industry, about one in 325 insured homes has a property damage claim related to fire and lightning, and on average, Americans own approximately 25 electronic products per home. Although most of the time electronics can be restored by a professional after a fire and returned to the home afterwards, there are a lot of hidden hazards of smoke and soot damage that are commonly misunderstood and pose certain health risks when not handled properly.

electronics restoration

A typical structure (residential home or business) contains various materials such as plastics, elastomers, foams, polymers, adhesives, fabrics, wood products and asbestos containing materials. The incomplete combustion of these materials as a result of fire can produce an array of toxic organic compounds such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SOVCs), and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHs).

Exposure to these compounds during a fire may exhibit both acute and chronic toxicity. Some of the other chemicals and gases found in smoke are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, water vapor, hydrogen cyanide, carbon particles, aldehydes, nitrogen oxide, benzene, toluene, styrene, metals, and dioxins. The size, quantity, character, and type of particles, gases, and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning and whether it was complete or incomplete combustion.

When different types of items burn, various types of soot residue and smoke are produced including wet smoke, dry smoke, plastic or rubber smoke, protein smoke, furnace soot, and candle smoke. When restoring or cleaning electronics, it is important to be able to recognize the difference in various types of soot and smoke as they pose different risks and implications.

Wet smoke is thick, smeary, sticky, has a pungent odor, and is prone to discoloration. It is very difficult to clean and requires specialized products and techniques. Wet smoke must be addressed quickly.

Dry smoke typically involves smaller, non-smeary particles, and is usually a result of hot, fast burning fires. The odor is usually not as strong as wet smoke.

Burning Plastic, foam, rubber, and polymers produce plastic or rubber smoke and burn with high energy at low temperatures. The particles produced have a high degree of ionization, therefore are attracted to other materials and form smoke webs. The smoke produced can potentially be acidic, if it is not addressed soon enough or treated properly with specialized products, bare metal surfaces can corrode and pit.

Protein smoke residue is a result of slow burning food such as meat and poultry. The particles are usually invisible and have a particularly strong pungent odor. A slow burn allows the protein to disperse and attach to everything, tends to stain painted and varnished surfaces, and is typically very difficult to clean.

electronics restoration

Furnace soot or puff-backs result from the misfiring in a furnace or when an older furnace is replaced with a newer, high efficiency furnace. The ventilation system will aid in the distribution of the soot and can send it throughout the entire home, covering drapes, bedding, furniture, cabinets, walls, and everything in between. It is possible that before the malfunction occurred, the furnace may have been emitting small quantities of soot over an extended length of time. When this occurs, the soot bonds to the surfaces making it more difficult to clean.

Candle soot residue AKA “dirty house syndrome” is visible residue without a recognizable fire source. Studies show that it is very possible to be a result of burning cheap scented decorative candles. Candle soot production normally begins when the particulate matter produced reaches .06 to 0.1 microns in size. Because the particles are so fine, they lodge in irregular surfaces and are held by electrostatic bonds requiring complete disassembly of the item.

electronics restoration

Smoke aids in the distribution of soot and travels to cooler areas and continues until the fire is extinguished, thereby causing soot to be distributed everywhere in its path.

When it comes to restoration, electronics are very sensitive and when compromised by smoke and soot, become a safety hazard. Damage from smoke and soot primarily stems from increased resistance in circuits and connections by corrosive metal loss, short circuiting caused by current leakage, and overheating. Cleaning smoke and soot damage on electronics and appliances requires learned skill sets, professional cleaning products, and techniques. It is important to take the complexity of effective electronics restoration into consideration before letting your team disassemble a computer or flat screen TV and hope for the best.

5 tips to practicing fire safety in a commercial property

Protecting property and tenants from a fire breakout should be the number one priority of any commercial property owner.

Ensuring property fire safety compliance can be an overwhelming task. Foreseeing fire safety concerns and being proactive can help you avoid major losses and costly repairs.

Here are the five tips to consider when it comes to ensuring fire safety for your commercial property.

Fire safety measures

All the commercial properties, to abide by the local building codes, are required to install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

Contact your local fire marshal to learn more about any specific criteria your building needs to meet in terms of locality or any other aspects in regards to fire safety.

Installing automatic sprinklers is a smart means to ensure that any fire-related issue is attended at the very instant it arises. Investing in advanced fire safety technologies like water mist systems and wireless detectors can help you efficiently and effectively manage fire-related concerns.

No smoking policy

Enforcing a strict no smoking policy within your commercial property is inevitable for fire safety. Irrespective of what the property is used for, it is an absolute necessity to prevent smoking within the areas of the building.

Use no smoking signs on all areas of the buildings including the emergency/fire stairs and car parking. Ensure that all the new tenants and employees are made aware of the strict no-smoking policies within the premises.

It is not a bad idea to have smoking zones away from the building. Remember to tag these areas with fireproof waste containers.

Educate employees

Irrespective of the size of the building or the businesses that operate within the property, it is important to assign someone to be the fire safety operator.

The fire safety operator or warden, with proper guidance, can easily educate employees regarding emergency procedures and escape routes and meeting places.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that the emergency evacuation building plans and diagrams are properly displayed on all levels in the building. Consider these aspects to planning a fire safety evacuation.

• Plan an evacuation procedure for employees that needs special care
• Choose a meeting point and inform the employees
• Ensure fire escape stairs are well lighted and not used as a storage

Keep an eye on storage

Storing unnecessary combustible materials can turn out to be deadly when it comes to fire safety. Keep the flammables away from your building. It is not ideal to store all the paper and cloth waste within the building, scheduling a weekly cleanup for these items is ideal.

Regular maintenance

Regular maintenance and frequent fire safety equipment tests/checks are mandatory. When doing the fire safety equipment inspection, it is ideal to follow these strategies:

• Replace any items that are warm or hot to touch
• Replace worn or old power cords and consider using cord protectors for these
• Ensure that the fire doors are operational and not blocked with furniture or boxes
• Ensure that chemical and equipment storage rooms are properly ventilated
• Test all the smoke detectors to ensure that they are operational

Fire safety compliance is critical for any commercial property. Even with all the safety measures in place, a fire breakout can still occur. This is where you need to look into a faster and efficient means to rebuild and restore.

Contact Rapid Restoration & Construction for more information.

(303) 412-9999

Understanding Mold is the Basis to Prevent Mold

Understanding mold.

Mold is not a plant and not an animal. Mold is a fungi with its own unique life-style, starting from a tiny microorganism called spore. Not all fungi are as unwanted as mold. Some are great decomposers, where decomposition is wanted. Antibiotics such as Penicillin are fungi, their development is a blessing for people. Even in our food we welcome the distinctive taste of yeast-fungi when brewing or baking.

Mold in buildings is un-welcome, it presents a danger for the building and for the people living in the building.

Mold starts from spores.  Spores have been around for centuries, our environment is contaminated with spores. That’s why mold can develop everywhere under the right conditions, even though nobody put “mold seeds” out.


Let’s take a look at how mold grows: A tiny spore is dormant somewhere, waiting sometimes for years for the right conditions. If the right conditions occur (see below), a spore will develop into a new organism.

The new organism develops into mold by penetrating through and under the surface into the substrate looking for food and growing an ever-extending web along the surface as far as favorable conditions exist. From this web tiny extensions grow vertically up. The ends swell and new spores are produced. When the spores are ready, they are air borne by the millions and dispersed into the surrounding air. The slightest drift can carry the spores far away in a short time, where they will, if conditions allow start a new colony.


Four ingredients have to be present for mold to grow: food, water, air and moderate temperatures.

First red flag:  Food: Contrary to green plants, the food source for mold is carbon, extracted from the material the mold lives on. As mold extracts carbon, it destroys carbon-containing substances: organic materials such as wood, wood-based products as well as plastics made from petroleum products, paint, etc. as well as building materials such as concrete and sheetrock. Mold infestations can have catastrophic consequences by weakening or destroying structural elements in buildings.

Second red flag:  The destruction of materials is not all. While digesting its food, mold releases toxics into the air, which can present a health hazard to humans.

Third red flag: One mold colony can grow countless spores sent into the air and inhaled by people living in mold infested areas. Mold can be a health hazard, depending on the type of fungi very serious health problems have occurred. Plus, the smell is revolting.


Ideal to monitor critical areas, anywhere, anytime. As long as the end of the cable is to be reached easily, this is the simplest way to measure and monitor inaccessible areas.

As mentioned before, in addition to food, the fungus needs water, air and moderate temperature.

In order to absorb food and grow, mold needs a certain moisture in the materials it likes to eat. Not too much and not too little. The fungi will not grow, if submerged in water, the fungi also cannot grow on dry materials. The moisture has to be a moisture content equivalent of 80% relative humidity to 99%, but not standing water. Example, if the relative humidity is 80% and the temperature is at 700F, the equivalent wood moisture content is 16%, which is considered a threshold for mold concerning wood.

And last not least mold will not grow, when it is very hot or very cold.

Summary: Spores are everywhere, ready to develop into mold. Mold needs food which is a main substance of all building materials. Humidity in air and moisture content of the substrate the mold grows on, are critical and have to be in a range from 80%-99%  and Wood moisture equivalent of 16% and above. And, the climate has to be moderate. Considering all these factors individually, we can really only control the air humidity and the moisture content to reduce the danger of mold growth.

If all is well, we live in dry buildings, kept at a comfortable relative humidity and temperature. Mold cannot develop, because the building is dry, the food source is inaccessible for mold and its spores.

moisture meters

Lignomat offers pin meters, pinless meters, and thermo-hygrometers, and combination meters for pin-pinless RH: Ligno-Versatec meter.

This all changes, when a pipe brakes, a roof leaks or a flood occurs. There is a time slot of 24 hours to a few days, when something can be done before the mold gets a foothold. Restoration specialists should be called to assess the problem, dry out or remove the materials, which have gotten too wet.

To assess the damage, the moisture content in the affected parts needs to be measured and the relative humidity needs to be kept under control. Lignomat is a company offering equipment for measuring moisture content and relative humidity. We have developed easy to use effective moisture meters with hand probes to assess water damage. The same equipment will tell you, when repairs are done and later if a leak exists. We also offer a very simple monitoring device for hard-to-reach areas.

The cable-probe system has been proven helpful to monitor inaccessible areas during drying and later-on for leak detection.

For more information contact Rapid Restoration & Construction.

Fall Roof Maintenance

1. Seasonal Fall Roof Maintenance, Protect Your Home From Trees

The first thing to do when it comes to fall roof maintenance is to make sure that no tree branch is within fifty feet of your home. Trees and houses are not friends! If a tree and its limbs are even close to touching your roof, you are asking for trouble. We’re talking insects, critters, even damage to your roof; keep tree limbs away from your home!

2. Inspect Your Roof and Flashings When Conducting Fall Roof Maintenance

Get up on your roof, safely and with the correct personal protective equipment, look for cracks. Pay close attention to where your roof meets your chimney or any other rising or falling parts of your roof. These areas will not be covered with regular roof material but rather a smooth metal called flashings. Make sure there are no wrinkles in the flashings as they can eventually become cracks which lead to leaks.

Even though you could climb up on your roof and play fix it, man or woman, you probably want to get a trusted professional in there at some point. Just to make sure you did not miss something that is an issue. Sure it’s fun to do it yourself, but when it comes to your roof, you may want to be a little less adventurous.

3. Your Fall Roof Maintenance Should Include Cleaning Your Gutters

Clean your gutters; it is a good idea to go into winter with clean gutters.  As the snow melts and runs off your roof, it follows the same path as rain, and therefore you want to bring as much of it off and away from your home as possible while it’s melting. The usual course of snow is that it melts when it warms up during the day and freezes up again as it cools down at night. If your gutters are not squeaky clean, the snowmelt will build up in there and drip over the sides; this will create icicles. These icicles are pretty to look at but present a major risk for tearing your gutters off your roof and even worse, falling and hurting someone.

Fall roof maintenance can help you catch problems while they are still small and can save you a lot of money and aggravation in the future. Call Rapid Restoration if you are in need of a roof inspection.