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The Thomas Fire: Its Impact and the Slow Road to Recovery

It has been called the largest wildfire in modern California history. It has raged nearly a month now in the southern part of the state and has damaged more than 281,893 acres (440 sq mi; 1,141 km2). It is what many are calling the St. Thomas Fire. This almost unimpeded disaster has destroyed homes, caused thousands to evacuate and has cost more than 170 million dollars thus far to combat.

The Fire’s Beginnings and a Possible Cause

The fire started in Santa Paula in early December of this year and quickly reached Ventura. It has since moved through rural communities, rugged mountains and all kinds of terrain. Giving more power to this raging fire has been the Santa Ana winds which have carried it further along into Santa Barbara County. To date the cause of the St. Thomas Fire is unknown. The fire began as two separate fires one in Santa Paula Canyon and the other in Upper Ojai. Some have speculated that power line breaks are to blame but Water and Power officials in Los Angeles have denied this. The investigation is ongoing and is likely to cost the state of California millions of dollars.

The Human Impact

  • In Sycamore Canyon power lines and towers were threatened by the firethomas fire
  • In Monticello luxury homes have been threatened with impending disaster
  • In Santa Barbara residents were separated from their pets and are now being asked pick up their animals from shelters before returning home.
  • In Santa Paula a California fire engineer Cory Iverson has lost his life

 

One of the lessons to be learned from the Thomas Fire is that disasters can occur at any time. Lack of preparation can be almost as damaging as the carelessness that is often the culprit behind such fires. Our company handles fire damage repair that can rock the very foundations of families, businesses and communities. It’s not just about fire damage. A house can be damaged during such disasters by water damage too. We also help mitigate the damage done with nature’s other formidable force. Moreover, we work with insurance companies in an attempt to make people whole again in the aftermath of disasters such as the Thomas Fire.

Removing Smoke Residue and Odor after a Fire

Long after a fire, the smells can linger in your home. The smoke tends to get in everywhere but once the fire has dissipated, the smoke can be cleared through aerating the home. The odor the smoke leaves behind, along with the little soot particles can be a lot more difficult to get rid of.

Surfaces such as upholstery, carpets, rugs and even blinds and curtaining tend to hold the odor from the fire much longer than the harder surfaces in your home. For the hard surfaces, excluding any natural stone, you can try and spray white vinegar on all the surfaces and leave it to dry. As a natural deodorizer, this should help remove the odor from the harder surfaces. For the soft surfaces, where they cannot be removed for cleaning, sprinkle them with baking soda over the entire surface. Baking soda removes odors naturally. After a few hours, vacuum or sweep up all the baking soda and throw it away. Leave bowls of vinegar or charcoal (normal not easy light) in the rooms to absorb left over smells. You can also leave small bowls of vinegar inside drawers and cupboards to absorb smells in the furniture itself.

You can even use a vinegar solution to wipe down counters, inside and outside of cupboards and other areas affected by the smoke and soot. You would also need to clean clothing well with a mix of laundry detergent and vinegar and possibly run through a few wash cycles to remove the odor. Do not thoroughly dry until the odor is gone so that it does not make it harder to remove later. Your HVAC system would also need to be thoroughly cleaned and new filters installed to get rid of lingering smoke smells.

Leather furniture can also be cleaned with a thorough wipe down of vinegar. Leather bags and jackets can have the odor removed by filling a stocking with baking soda or coffee grounds and placing it in the bag or in the jacket pockets.

In instances where there is a lot of soot, it may be better to hire a professional to do the clean up for you as the soot can be very harmful if inhaled. Professionals who deal with this type of restorative work can ensure your home is cleaned, all surfaces and hidden areas are cleaned to remove soot and smoke as well as clean your soft surfaces and possibly the upholstery as well. Ozone cleaners can be used by professionals to remove smells and lingering smoke odors after the fire as well. These should not be used by untrained persons.

Where possible, avoid the use of harsh chemicals and follow the instructions of chemicals you do use to prevent damaging your items further while attempting to remove the smoke marks and odors in your home.

Once your home is free of smoke odors, you may consider burning incense, spraying air fresheners with your favorite scents, burning scented candles to establish your favorite scents in your home and uplift your spirits. If you want to use a more natural scent, consider coffee grounds, which also neutralize bad odors and leave a nice smell of their own in your home.

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