Nearly a half-million residential and commercial buildings burn in the U.S. annually, requiring specialized crews to use the latest technology, equipment, and fire restoration techniques to clean the charred wreckage.

Of the 486,000 fires reported in 2021, upwards of 361,000 were one- or two-family homes, apartments, and other residential living spaces. The remainder — 125,000 — were reportedly non-residential structures.

All told, U.S. property owners suffered losses of $15.95 billion during that year alone. Although the losses appear to be on the rise, workers using new fire restoration technology may reduce the time, effort, and cost of rehabilitating damaged buildings.

What is Fire Restoration?

Fire restoration starts by securing a perimeter and conducting a thorough analysis to determine the extent of the structural and cosmetic damage to a given structure. This class of restoration is typically carried out by specialized crews who provide other forms of building rehab caused by floods and high winds, among others.

Wearing appropriate fire restoration protective clothing, technicians remove charred remains, smoke-damaged materials, and load-bearing supports. The goal is to salvage items and infrastructure that were not impacted by the blaze and rebuild. When the restoration is complete, property owners enjoy a building that shows no signs of being damaged.

What Tasks Do Fire Restoration Workers Perform?

It’s important to keep in mind that fire restoration overlaps with other types of remediation. For instance, intense heat and flames usually damage things like the plumbing system. This leads to water damage that the restoration team must also address. Once the blaze is extinguished and a safety perimeter is in place, the following fire restoration steps are taken.

  • Damage Assessment: Experienced professionals review the structural and superficial damage. A detailed report is produced highlighting what can be salvaged, what requires gutting, and the appropriate fire restoration techniques that will be used.
  • Content Removal:All non-structural items that have been exposed to heat or smoke are typically removed from the premises by restoration teams.
  • Water Extraction: It’s essential to use new fire restoration technology and equipment to dry the ruins. Moisture can quickly spur hazardous mold growths that threaten the health of restoration workers.
  • Demolition:Rather than raze the building, fire restoration techniques are employed to perform controlled demolition. The goal is to reduce losses by keeping viable building infrastructure.
  • Decontamination:Before the rebuilding phase can move forward, specialized tools and techniques are used to sanitize the site. The new fire restoration technology that has emerged in recent years has proven cost-effective and safer for workers. 

Throughout the process, fire restoration protective clothing must be worn by crew members. Safety dictates specialists wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing. It’s prudent for restoration businesses to use disposable protective clothing to ensure unknown hazards don’t find their way off the site and into the homes of workers.

Innovative Fire Restoration Techniques

As restoration professionals are keenly aware, the telltale signs of a structural fire can linger indefinitely. Remediation and restoration crews were once tasked with gutting entire floors, even tearing out load-bearing walls in many cases.

That’s largely due to the fact the smell of smoke cannot be removed. Thanks to innovative fire restoration techniques and next-gen technologies, property losses are being reduced. These are ways restoration professionals are getting the job done.

Using Sound

Ultrasonic sound has emerged as an unlikely technique for cleaning fire-damaged products. It can be used to revitalize items such as handheld devices, electronic equipment, and sometimes fragile products impacted by smoke and soot. Items are usually submerged in cleaning solutions and exposed to ultrasonic sound. The waves and bubbles this technique generates loosens and washes away the thin layer of smoke and soot.

Enzyme Cleansers

The use of chemistry is nothing new to the restoration field. Enzyme-based cleaning products have the capacity to eat away visible fire damage. This fire restoration technique is being used to address challenging residues and soot stains.

Dry Ice Cleaning

Using a compressor, fire restoration crews are using dry ice as a cleaning projectile. Although shooting an item at modestly tainted surfaces would logically result in further damage, dry ice possesses unique properties.

The pellets used in this brute force technique are transformed into a gas upon impact. The energy released by this trick of chemistry cleans the surface. Restoration companies are now using dry ice to salvage materials such as concrete and wood.

Laser Cleansing

The integration of laser cleansing in the fire restoration field is quickly replacing sandblasting (also known as abrasive blasting). Shooting tiny particles of abrasive materials at surfaces has been an ongoing safety hazard. Lasers, by contrast, do not threaten the lungs of restoration workers. They also sidestep the cost of cleaning up piles of silica or other blast media.

New Fire Restoration Technology

Many of the latest fire restoration techniques are driven by new and emerging technologies. Scientific breakthroughs continue to find applications in numerous fields. The innovative products being used in the restoration sector are helping to improve workplace safety while cutting costs. These devices are fast becoming a standard part of the industry.

Ozone Generators

These relatively compact and mobile machines use oxidation to reduce the smell of smoke and other past-fire odors. They accomplish this feat by creating and releasing molecules that interact with those causing the stench. Ozone generators are also capable of breaking down smells caused by broken sewer lines, mold, mildew, and cigarettes.

Hydroxyl Generators

Hydroxyl generators are typically used as a secondary device. Based on the same technology as ozone generators, these products release different types of molecules. Hydroxyl molecules are also highly reactive and are considered effective for air purification and breaking down a variety of organic materials. The process involves shining UV rays on impacted surfaces in addition to titanium dioxide. The interaction breaks down soot, smoke stains, and eliminates odors.

Nanotechnology Technology

Next-generation nanotechnology has arrived in the fire restoration field. The sometimes-controversial technology is being integrated into industries such as communications, food, energy, and medicine, among others.

In terms of its fire restoration applications, minuscule Nanos can infiltrate most materials and eradicate smoke, soot, and other unwelcome residues. This advanced technology can effectively reverse all traces of fire damage from most materials and products.  

HEPA filter systems

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter systems are improving workplace safety by purifying the air of smoke-damaged buildings. HEPA-certified devices have the bandwidth to eliminate upwards of 99 percent of airborne toxins and particles measuring 0.3 micrometers in size.

Widely employed in hospitals to ensure sterile environments, HEPA filter systems can also address lingering stenches. Fire restoration operations are taking advantage of portable HEPA equipment in new and innovative ways to lower costs and to protect the health and safety of clean-up crews.

Personal Protective Equipment Fire Restoration Crews Require

New methods of technologies are streamlining the post-fire process and making the environment safer for specialists to do their jobs. But nothing can replace the safety benefits workers gain from wearing fire restoration protective clothing. The only way to ensure hard-working crew members complete their tasks without incurring health risks is by using the following PPE and disposable clothing items.

  • Breathable Masks
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Hard Hats & Work Gloves
  • Protective Footwear Coverings
  • Disposable Coveralls that Resist Chemical Seepage

It’s also essential for safety managers to consider strategies to reduce airborne particles and provide fire restoration workers with designated areas to don and doff PPE and disposable clothing. The last thing anyone wants is for restoration professionals to take their work contaminants home.