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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Archived Fire Damage Blog Posts

Exhaust Vents Are Household Fire Hazards

8/10/2020 (Permalink)

bathroom ceiling vent Dirty bathroom and laundry room ceiling vents can be a huge fire hazard.

Bathroom and Laundry Room Vents - Hidden Household Fire Hazards

There are a lot of things that new homeowners are not taught when buying a new home. Most of those issues have to deal with routine maintenance of the home. Recently, we have had a few fire restoration jobs from Mesa Arizona that came in relatively close together where the cause of the fire was the bathroom/laundry room vents. Not something you hear about every day. Personally, we bought our house around 10 years ago and we haven’t ever really thought about cleaning the vents in our bathrooms or laundry room. We did put up some wire mesh around them though to prevent scorpions from getting through. But, never thought about cleaning them out. Until I started working with SERVPRO that is. There are a lot of things we do differently now.

Most people are not aware that dirty air ducts can be a fire hazard. Also, a lot of people don’t know that an insurance claim for a fire started by maintenance neglect will generally not be covered. So, this is important! Dust, lint, and other materials could serve as an ignition if the fan gets too hot. Here in Arizona, especially during the summer, that can be a huge hazard. 

Cleaning your air vents out is not really hard to do. It does take some time and dust can get everywhere. So you will want to wear some eye protection and should wear a mask. Of course, most people are wearing masks everywhere nowadays anyway. So a mask should be easy to find laying around. Below we will discuss the steps to cleaning your air vent and some of the tools you will want to have on hand.

  1. Put on protective gear such as eye protection and a mask. Dust and dirt will be stirred up during the process and you really don’t want that getting into your eyes or airways. Wearing gloves might be a good idea as well, though not really necessary.
  2. Take the vent cover off of the vent. This can seem a little tricky. Sometimes, if the vent was placed prior to any painting that has been done on the ceiling, there could be a slight bond there at the edges. Usually slightly shifting the vent cover back and forth will break that. Sometimes using a flathead screwdriver to slightly move it will also work.
  3. When you are pulling the vent cover down, do it gently as there are spring clamps holding the vent cover in place. If you bring the cover down a little you will see them. Squeeze the sides of the clamp together to release them and then remove the vent cover. You might want to look up a youtube video showing that done. It sounds easy, but it makes more sense when you have actually seen it done.
  4. Next you will want to find the power plug and pull it out so it doesn’t accidentally turn on somehow while you are in the process of cleaning or removing the vent. Trust me, that could cause all kinds of issues.
  5. Now you have a decision to make. It really depends on how clean you want to get your vent. You could clean it in place or remove it to clean it more thoroughly. If you choose to clean it in place you will want to use a vacuum cleaner hose attachment, a rag, q tips, and cleaning solution. Obviously, if you take the vent out you will have better access to clean the nooks and crannies. I would suggest cleaning your vents by removing the whole vent. But cleaning it out without removing it is better than not doing it at all, and you don’t have to worry about having fun putting the vent back up into place.

You should consider cleaning your vents around ever 6 months or at least once a year. Sometimes people are under the impression that if they have someone come out to clean their air ducts, that is covered as well. While it is a good idea to have your air ducts cleaned, they do not clean your vents at the same time. 

Doing these kinds of routine household maintenance chores may seem like a pain to deal with. However, they could really pay off in the long run if it helps you avoid a fire in your home.

Are you prepared in case of a home fire?

8/23/2019 (Permalink)

A male and female Volunteer side by side with American Red Cross symbols on them. American Red Cross and the volunteers are here to help, along with the team that is "faster to any size disaster." SERVPRO of North Central Mesa.

In case of a fire, are you ready?

Everyone needs to be prepared, no matter how old or young you are. Being prepared can save your life.

In October of 2018, the American Red Cross hosted a Fire alarm install walk. We walked with friends and family to install Fire alarms for the community.

At the start of a fire, the American Red Cross suggests the following steps of action:

  • Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
  • Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
  • If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit — close doors behind you.
  • If smoke, heat, or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  • Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.

Luckily you have local SERVPRO franchises in your area. We come to you to help whenever you find yourself in a disaster. Things can go MUCH smoother if you are prepared and act fast when a disaster strikes. 

After calling emergency response (911 & the Fire Department) have been called. Call us as soon as possible 24 hours a day/7days a week at (480) 553-7103, and we will have someone on the scene within 4 hours. With a quick reaction time, it will give the 1st responders a chance to do their job and still allows for a quick assessment of the situation to best help with your specific situation.

Preparing ahead of time is always the best bet. Using the Emergency Ready Plan App developed by SERVPRO in partnership with the American Red Cross is a great way to be prepared. It is a free app available on all mobile devices. If you have any questions about setting it up, please feel free to give us a call at (480) 553-7103.

Up until 2018, SERVPRO was a Partner with the Red Cross. SERVPRO of North Central Mesa is still working with the local American Red Cross and have active volunteers on staff who volunteer over 250 hours a month. Have you ever thought of being a Volunteer for any organization? How about helping a global non-profit organization?  Check out your local American Red Cross to see how you can help!

The Red Cross has locations all over the world, but they are not in every single city. They are 100's of cities in every state, and every country has a lot of rules. So, you could imagine how much help they could use from around the world. Anything and everything could be helpful at this point for the American Red Cross. From blood, money, even just some of your time on the weekends.

There are all different kinds of disasters, depending on where you live, you’ll an increased chance of having more accidents. Just like the state like Arizona, where we don’t have an ocean boarding our state, there are still chances of the flood, and other natural disasters. In tropical areas, like how Arizona is, it’s essential to be ready for anything. Having water on hand is KEY to staying hydrated and staying alive in disaster scenarios.

If you would like to donate any bottled water, you can contact us at (480) 553-7103, and we’ll take care of it for you, your friends, and family.

Arson fire in Mesa Arizona

8/14/2019 (Permalink)

SERVPRO arriving on scene getting a photo of the front of the property.

In December of 2017, a homeowner here in Arizona had her shower interrupted by furious knocks on her front door. As she rushed to the door, she was greeted by her neighbor. They then informed her that her house was on fire!

 Because of an ongoing investigation, specific details of the incident won’t be reviewed here. But what can be said is that the fire was indeed arson. Had the neighbors not notified the homeowner that the house was on fire, there is a good chance that she wouldn’t have made it out of the house alive. Home fires are a severe threat, and having an escape plan is a necessity.

SERVPRO walked through the house (5 months after the fire) to try to assess what needs to be done to restore the property to preloss conditions. We were confronted with the remnants of a family room, dining room, and kids’ room where the family spent time together. Around the hall was a bedroom where children slept whose beds and toys were still in a place covered by insulation and ash.

The kitchen where families eat a meal together was recognizable, but far from usable and food sat still in the fridge which had been there since the day of the fire. These types of events put people’s lives on hold and leave lasting damaging emotional and mental damage that sometimes never go away. Acts of a selfish person thinking that this was the appropriate response to their feelings of anger.

Here at SERVPRO of North Central Mesa, we see some of the best and worst in our society. From Crime scene clean up where we are cleaning up after blood and feces, to large arson fires like this one. We are grateful some neighbors rushed to help their neighbor. What to do when this, of that, happens. In our line of business, we deal with a lot of sadness and difficult situations: Housefires, suicide clean-ups, houses flooded, lives disrupted, and lost. Then after the first event, the pain is revisited repeatedly by dealing with insurance policies, police reports, sometimes news reporters and repeatedly explaining what happened to other family and friends. It’s a delicate issue.

If you have or family who is dealing with a similar event, please keep us in mind. You can contact us at (480) 553-7103. We are here to help, and let your loved ones have their space until they can talk about what happened and be whatever they need at that moment. If you ever have the change, be the good neighbor who cares enough for your neighbors to act.

Top 3 Fire hazards during the summer.

6/19/2019 (Permalink)

Someone missing a roof after a Home fire. Don't get too caught up in the summer fun and leave things burning.

Top 3 fire hazardous equipment in Mesa Arizona’s

No one wants to have to deal with a house fire, especially when it hot enough outside during the summer months. Personally, my family has the unfortunate experience of a kitchen fire here in Arizona. Having a burnout and dealing with several house fires SERVPRO is here to help when you suffer a total loss from fire. SERVPRO of North Central Mesa has noticed a few things people should look at when trying to prevent the possibility of a house fire.

Some of the most common causes of house fires are:

  1. Cooking Equipment
  2. Smoking
  3. Heating Equipment. 

Cooking equipment such as microwaves, cooking oil and turkey fryers (Or a slow cooker if you are a This is Us Fan) are the leading cause of house fires at 47%. They also cause 20% of home fire deaths and 45% of fire injuries. Always watch the food that is cooking and make sure that flammable items are kept away from heating elements. Also, avoid cooking while sleeping or intoxicated with alcohol or medication.

While smoking materials only account for 5% of house fires, it causes 21% of home fire deaths, which causes it to be the deadliest cause of house fires. Faulty lighters and cigar/cigarette butts that have not been extinguished are the leading culprits. Of course, the best way to avoid a fire from smoking materials is not to smoke. But if you do smoke, make sure lighters are put in areas where they are less likely to ignite (i.e.: extreme heat) and make sure all butts are extinguished after use. Also, with the rise of vaping, make sure batteries are removed from vaping devices while not in use. 

Space heaters and uncleaned chimneys are the leading causes of house fires from heating sources. To avoid this, make sure that vents are cleaned out regularly (click here to find a chimney sweep near you in Mesa, AZ) and don't leave space heaters unattended. According to the National Fire Protection Association, from 2011-2015 fires from home heating sources caused about "$1.1 Billion in direct property damage."

*blog information from 2011-2015 statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association.

Apartment Fire Damage in Mesa, AZ. Are You Covered?

5/31/2019 (Permalink)

Fire damage to your property can be devastating! At the beginning of March an apartment complex had in Mesa, AZ buildings light up in flames and almost burnt down the whole side of the building. 10 of the 12 apartments in that building were affected and 7 had to be totally vacated by the renters. SERVPRO of North Central Mesa is the vendor the apartment complex uses for mitigating fire damage issues on their properties. This next week we will begin the demolition of those apartments which have to be torn down to studs. As costly as this will be to the Apartment complex to fix, it has been overwhelming for the renters who had to vacate their apartments. One of the main issues for the renters was having to leave property behind that in some cases are not salvageable. 3 of the apartments in question had 70 to 100% of the contents of the apartments damaged to the point of not being salvageable.

Generally apartment leases require renters to have liability insurance to cover damage to the structure of the apartments, but don’t necessarily require you to have coverage for your personal contents. However, in the leasing agreement, there is generally wording that absolves the apartment complex of liability if you don’t have coverage for your contents. 2 of the renters we are working with did not have their personal property covered in their insurance policy and are going to have to personally replace everything they lost. Now, they are still investigating the cause of the fire. If it is found to have been caused by the negligence of another renter, they can possibly go after the insurance policy of the renters at fault. But generally the apartment complex has first priority to claims per the rental agreement. The cost to restore the building will be well over $500K and will most likely exhaust the claim coverage.

So insurance policies are sometimes complicated to understand. But there are some basics PolicyGenius.com suggests for renters insurance.

  • $25,000 personal property damage coverage: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing your belongings if they’re damaged or stolen.
  • $300,000 personal liability coverage: Covers legal costs from damage or injury that occurs in your apartment.
  • $2,000 medical payment coverage: Covers medical expenses for anyone injured in your apartment.
  • $10,000 loss of use coverage: Covers the cost of lodging, food, and more if your apartment becomes unlivable due to damage.

They also suggest having a deductible of around $500. Yes, you can get your insurance cheaper with a higher deductible, but remember, if something happens you have to make sure you are able to cover that deductible.

Smoke Alarm Safety Mesa, AZ

4/22/2019 (Permalink)

May 4th is Wildfire Community Preparedness day! Wildfires have devastating effects on the local environment, but did you know that from 2012 to 2016 11,670 were injured and 2560 civilians died from house fires! Additionally $6.5 billion in damage was caused by the same house fires.

Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.

Smoke Alarm Facts and Stats

  • In 2009-2013, smoke alarms sounded in over half (53%) of the house fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Three of every five house fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without smoke alarms (38%) or non-working smoke alarms (21%).
  • The death rate for every 100 reported home fires was over twice as high in homes that didn’t have any working smoke alarms compared with the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths for every 100 fires).
  • In fires in which the smoke alarms were there but did not operate, almost 50% of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.
  • Dead batteries caused just under 25% of the smoke alarm failures.

Smoke Alarm Safety Tips

  • A closed door could slow the spread of smoke, heat & fire. You should install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside every separate sleeping area. Install alarms on each level of the home.
  • Smoke alarms should be interconnected. So, when one sounds, they will all sound.
  • Large homes might need additional smoke alarms.
  • Homeowners should test smoke alarms at least once a month. Make sure the alarm is working by pressing the test button.
  • There are two kinds of alarms. Ionization smoke alarms react more quickly to flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms respond more quickly to smoldering fires. A best practice is to use both types of alarms in the home.
  • When your smoke alarm(s) sound, go outside and stay outside.
  • Practice escape routes from your home with your family or roommates.
  • Replace every smoke alarm in your home every 10 years.
  • Smoke alarms are inexpensive and are worth the lives they help save.
  • Smoke alarms with dead or missing batteries are the same as having no smokes alarm at all. Smoke alarms only work when they are properly installed and regularly tested. Take care of your smoke alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Create a Fire Escape Plan for Your Home!

4/22/2019 (Permalink)

House fires created over $264 Million in direct property damage from 2012 to 2016. As bad as that is, property damage can be restored or replaced. In the same amount of time, an average of 80 deaths was caused annually by those fires. A life cannot be replaced. The best way to prevent a death from a house fire is to have a plan. When a fire does take place in your home, saving a few seconds of reaction time could make a big difference in helping to get your family or friends out of danger quickly and safely.

Here are some tips you can use to create an effective fire evacuation plan!

  • Plan for everyone. Account for the special needs of everyone in your household, especially young children and elderly household members who may not be as mobile. Children don’t always wake up when a smoke alarm sounds. Make sure someone is assigned as an escape buddy for small children, then choose a backup person in case the assigned person is not present at the time of the fire.
  • Identify two ways out of the structure. This could include windows and doors. Make sure each escape route open easily so everyone can get outside. and install emergency release mechanisms on all security bars on doors or windows.
  • Involve the children in planning. Have your children help create the fire evacuation plan. Draw a map of the home, then have the children mark two exit routes and the locations of smoke detectors.
  • Choose a meeting spot outside of the structure. Decide on a meeting place outside. It can be a neighbor’s house, mailbox or stop sign. It should be in front of the house so first responders are able to see you when they arrive. Make sure everyone knows not to go back into the house after you leave.
  • Check smoke alarms. Check that smoke detectors are properly placed and working. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing one in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping room and on each level of the home.
  • Be visible. Make sure that your house number can be seen quickly from the street by first responders. You can put house numbers above the garage door, on a pillar next to the front door, or on the street curb directly in front of your house, for example.
  • Respond immediately. Make sure everyone knows that if the smoke alarm sounds, they need to get out as quickly as possible.
  • Always have a backup plan. If the planned exit routes are blocked by fire or fallen debris and it’s not possible to leave the house, close all doors between you and the fire. Place a towel, pillow, or something similar under the door and go to an exterior-facing window. Call the fire department to report your location.
  • Share with everyone. Make sure the escape plan is readily accessible to guests as well. Go over the plan with everyone who lives in the house along with guests and overnight visitors.
  • Practice your escape plan regularly. Practice and review the plan at least once per year.

With a well-thought-out plan in place, you can be one step ahead of the unexpected. You may not have the time or ability to think things through.

Document Restoration From a Fire in Mesa AZ

5/15/2018 (Permalink)

game cards being dried on a table from a water damage issue game cards being air-dried as a result of a water damage issue.

SERVPRO of North Central Mesa can preserve most documents damaged by fire and water losses.

Monsoon season is in full swing in Arizona. It might have snuck up on you with everyone’s attention being focused on a certain pandemic wreaking havoc on people’s health and the economy. Generally, the start of the monsoon season brings an end to the end of the fire season in Arizona for obvious reasons. Though, lightning does pose an occasional threat to start a fire here and there. However, if we have another dry monsoon season like we had last year, the dryness and the heat may pose an incredible risk of extending the fire season. Like we need something else to worry about this year… right?!

We have actually been unusually busy working on fire jobs this year. If that trend continues, it could mean great news for us, but not so much for our potential future clients. Though we do love working fire jobs, it’s not too fantastic for those who are displaced as a result of a fire loss. 

Water Damage From Fire Losses

One often overlooked effect of fires is the water loss that comes with it. That may sound odd, but when the fire department is working on putting a fire out tons of gallons of water is used to extinguish a fire. For large fires up to 20,000 gallons of water could be used to put out a fire. That’s a lot of water, and potentially a lot of water damage. Hopefully, you will be lucky and not have any important paperwork damaged by that water, assuming the fire didn’t get to it.

Document Restoration Services

Most people do not know that SERVPRO has one of the most advanced document drying processes and facilities in the United States. This can be useful in restoring damaged personal paperwork, or in the case of a recent job we had with an architectural firm in Mesa Arizona, years of paper documents between customer/client files and architecture blueprints. In that case we sent a refrigerated truckload of files to our corporate headquarters for restoration.

When your valuable documents, including photographs, are damaged by water or fire, we take extreme caution to help ensure those smoke or water damaged documents have the best chance of being restored. We are not always able to save everything, but more often than not, our customers, and their adjusters, are surprised at what we are able to return back to them. Although some documents may not be restored to pre-fire damage conditions, SERVPRO of North Central Mesa Professionals can save a great deal and help minimize additional damage. 

Depending on the type of documents and the level of fire, smoke, or soot damage, they have five options for the restoration of documents:

  1. Air Drying
  2. Dehumidification
  3. Freezer Drying
  4. Vacuum Freeze Drying
  5. Vacuum Thermal Drying

The Cards in this picture are being air-dried. They were taken from an apartment fire in Tempe, Arizona. While we weren’t able to save all of the cards, we were able to save the majority of the most valuable ones. After seeing some of the resale value of the cards they had, it makes me wish I had kept more of the Garbage Pail Kids and Star Wars trading cards I had when I was a kid.

A few cards short of a deck

3/15/2016 (Permalink)

These cards are laid out to be Air Dried.

When your valuable documents, including photographs, are damaged by water or fire, extreme caution should be taken to help ensure the fire damage does not destroy the document. Although some documents may not be restored to pre-fire damage condition, SERVPRO Franchise Professionals can save a great deal and help minimize additional damage. 

Depending on the type of documents and the level of fire, smoke, or soot damage, they have five options for the restoration of documents:

  1. Air Drying
  2. Dehumidification
  3. Freezer Drying
  4. Vacuum Freeze Drying
  5. Vacuum Thermal Drying

These Cards are being Air Dried in this picture. They were taken from an apartment fire in Tempe, Arizona.  Once they get done drying, the home owner is going to be taking to get appraised to see what value is still in the cards after this house fire. 

After: Warehouse Fire in Mesa

7/25/2014 (Permalink)

After the restoration.

Wow, what a difference!!!!!

Before: Warehouse Fire in Mesa

7/25/2014 (Permalink)

Before we started.

We just finished the cleanup of a fire loss in Mesa AZ. Lots of soot and ash!