When you think of a fire, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the flames.
But there's more to fire than just the heat and light. There's also smoke, which can cause secondary damage to your property if it's not cleaned up quickly.
So what is secondary damage fire, and how can you make sure it doesn't happen to you? Keep reading to find out!
Secondary Damage Fire Defined
When a fire burns, it can cause damage in two ways: primary and secondary damages.
The first is primary damage, which is caused by the flames themselves. This can include charring, melting, and other forms of destruction.
The second is secondary damage, which is caused by smoke and water. Smoke can cause staining, discolouration, and odours. On the other hand, water can cause warping, swelling, and rotting of material.
Because secondary damage is often not as immediately apparent as primary damage, it can be easy to overlook. However, it is important to address secondary damage as soon as possible, as it can further destroy your property.
Types of Secondary Damage Fire
While the initial damage caused by a fire can be devastating, the effects can often be compounded by secondary damages. These are the damages that occur due to firefighting efforts, and just like primary damages, they can be extensive.
Some of the most common types of secondary fire damage are the following:
1. Smoke damage
This can be caused by either the smoke itself or the chemicals used to extinguish the fire, and it can be difficult to remove completely. In some cases, it may even require the replacement of affected materials entirely.
Smoke from fires can cause staining and discolouration on surfaces and pitting/etching on glass. In addition, smoke can cause respiratory problems and trigger asthma attacks.
2. Water damage
One of the most common causes of secondary damage is water damage. This can occur when fire hoses are used to extinguish the flames, leaving the building materials soaked. Over time, this can weaken the building materials and lead to extensive problems if not properly remediated.
3. Structural damage
Structural damage is also a common form of secondary damage caused by fires. This can occur when the heat from the fire weakens load-bearing beams or wall studs, and it can pose a serious safety hazard if not addressed promptly.
In addition, ash and debris can clog HVAC systems, causing them to overheat and break down.
4. Human injury
Apart from the apparent physical damage, human injury can also occur when firefighters walk through wet areas or come into contact with weak or burned building materials. Firefighter injury can also occur when firefighters are exposed to smoke or hazardous chemicals.
How Do You Prevent Secondary Damage Fire?
While fires are certainly destructive, the damage they cause doesn't have to be permanent. There are steps you can take to prevent secondary damage from occurring.
1. Remove all water sources
Water damage is one of the most common forms of secondary damage. This type of damage can be especially severe in homes or structures with older plumbing, as the pipes are more likely to burst under high pressure during a fire.
To prevent secondary water damage, regularly check your plumbing for leaks and that your house or business building’s electrical inspection is up-to-date.
In the case of post-fire management, you’ll need to dry out the damaged area completely. In smaller areas, such as a kitchen fire, this can be done by simply opening up the windows and using fans and dehumidifiers to circulate air.
For buildings and other massive structures, you may need to use special cleaners and vacuums to ensure that the area is completely dried out. This prevents the walls, floorings, and other building materials from getting soaked for long periods.
2. Clean up soot, ash, and charred debris
It is important to remove any soot, smoke residues, and charred debris from the affected area as soon as possible. This will prevent the smoke from further damaging the area.
Just like preventing water damage, good ventilation is key. Try to ventilate the area as much as possible to allow fresh air to circulate. This will help dissipate the smoke and reduce the chances of it causing further damage.
Finally, if possible, avoid using any electronics or other objects that could generate heat, as this could cause the smoke damage to spread. By taking these precautions, you can help to prevent extensive smoke damage from a fire.
3. Have a working fire protection system in place
A working fire protection system is one of the best ways to prevent secondary fire damage, as much as it minimises the primary damages.
You may install active fire protection such as fire alarms or smoke detectors. Passive fire protection such as steel doors and fire curtains is also essential, especially in bigger buildings.
A fire protection system can alert the occupants of the danger and give them time to evacuate the premises safely, lessening the ingestion of smoke and other harmful chemicals brought about by the fire.
Secondary Damage Prevention by Australian Fire Control
While the visible damage from a fire may be apparent, it’s important to remember that there is often significant secondary damage as well. Secondary damage can include smoke and water damage, both of which can cause long-term problems if not addressed quickly and properly. That’s why it’s so important to contact a professional fire restoration company as soon as possible after a fire has occurred.
At Australian Fire Control, we have years of experience setting up effective passive fire protection systems to prevent post-fire damages. Contact us today to know which one suits your business best.