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A Guide To The Kinds Of Property Damage That Can Be Caused By Fire

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Property Damage

Fires are one of the most enduring and heartbreaking catastrophes that can befall individuals, businesses and communities. This article focuses on the kinds of Property damage that can be caused to buildings that have been exposed to fire. Of course, the human cost of a fire can be much greater than the financial or structural ones, but it would be beyond the remit of this article to address such a complex matter. Instead, it will run through the kinds of building damage associated with combustion and touch upon the ways in which this damage can be prevented or remedied.

Fires have undoubtably been destroying and damaging buildings since human beings first attempted to tame the power of combustion. The first truly descriptive account of a fire that is widely known comes from Jewish scripture and tells the story of how the first temple in Jerusalem was burned by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Another important historical account of structural damage during fire was recorded by the English Administrator and Diarist Samuel Pepys. He went into great detail about the damage inflicted on buildings during the great fire of London in 1666.

In the modern era, the causes of building fires are myriad. Arson, electrical faults and naked flames are all major causes. Climate change is also making forest fires more of a persistent threat. Recent forest fires in California, Australia and Portugal have all touched upon human habitations and caused a great deal of damage. Here are some of the main kinds of damage caused by fire. A great deal of fire damage is able to be reversed using specialist techniques practiced by companies like the NCRI, whose website can be found here: https://ncricat.com/fire-damage/.

Burn And Heat Damage

As you might expect, the great heat caused by a building fire can cause a huge amount of Property damage. Generally speaking, small combustible objects such as chairs will be lost to the flames. Structural damage is a more complex matter. Although the heat of a fire can weaken structures due to combustion or rapid expansion, it actually takes quite a prolonged fire to cause structural damage that renders a building unusable.

Even wooden beams, which are inherently combustible, can retain their strength after a fire if it is properly extinguished in time. After cleaning up a fire site, it is necessary to commission a structural survey to make sense of the damage to the home that has been subjected to fire. Structural surveyors will test the material strength of supporting beams and boards in order to ascertain whether they need replacing or not. Unfortunately, a house or business may need to be expensively renovated or even demolished if the fire has burned hot enough to cause structural instability.

For homes and businesses constructed of concrete, there is a high chance that structural integrity will be retained after even the most destructive fire. Renovating a concrete building that has been subjected to fire involves the stripping away of weakened concrete and the re-concreting of weakened areas.

Extreme heat can have a buckling effect on metal girders. This is due to the way in which metals expand and contract when subjected to temperature changes. This is the same process that makes train tracks buckle during extreme heatwaves. Buckled metal girders are most certainly weakened and need to be replaced after a fire.

Smoke Damage

Smoke damage is an example of secondary damage. Secondary damage is any damage caused by factors other than the flames and heat themselves. Fires in buildings create a huge quantity of smoke. Smoke is the main danger to human life during a fire due to the way in which it prevents the human body from taking oxygen from the air. It can also have a lasting effect on the building itself. Smoke and soot typically coat every internal surface and permeate deep into the substrate. Sand or sponge blasting is typically recommended for reversing smoke damage, but this can in turn do some damage to the building. A professional disaster recovery team needs to be employed for the removal of smoke damage if further degradation of the building is to be avoided.

Firefighting Damage

For obvious reasons, firefighters prioritize the de-escalation of a fire over the protection of a property when they are called to an incident. To this end, they spray a huge amount of water into the effected building and will also use foam and oxygen depriving chemicals in certain circumstances. This can severely damage the inside of a building, break furniture, strip wallpaper and soak sensitive technologies. Firefighters also sometimes need to cause some structural damage in order to access a building on fire. Hammers and axes are used to break into locked rooms and windows are smashed in order to permit water to be blasted in.

Electrical And Utilities Damage

All electrics and utilities should be considered as unsafe after a fire. This is because they may have been warped by heat or – in the case of water utilities – contaminated by soot, smoke or chemicals. A full audit needs to take place before any utilities are used.

Exposure Damage

One kind of secondary fire damage that is often overlooked by property owners is exposure damage. Because a fire will often damage or completely demolish ceilings and walls, the interior of a building may be exposed to the elements. In cases where fires have sprung up due to adverse weather conditions – such as fires caused by electrical faults during an earthquake or flood – the elements can seriously damage property interiors. Rain, floodwater and debris can wreak havoc on household objects or sensitive computers within a business. Home and business owners are generally unable to save sensitive objects during a fire or extreme weather event, so these losses tend to be unavoidable. The best course of action is to properly insure your home or business for internal fire damage. If a business is handling sensitive data, it needs to back this data up using a cloud service. Local servers are particularly vulnerable to rain damage after a building is exposed by fire.

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