Fire Recovery Guide

fire damage house restoration

What do you do after a fire disaster?

This is most likely your first fire-related loss. However, at ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration, we have helped people through this process countless times. Years of experience have led us to advanced scientific methods, techniques and products for restoring buildings and personal property.

We suggest that you do not attempt any “do-ityourself” cleaning methods without consulting with your ServiceMaster Restore Restoration Technician. This could actually make the damage worse. Touching surfaces covered in soot can permanently set the soot. Please consider there are complex chemical reactions and hidden damage that are best restored with specific products, equipment and expert methods. Returning your property back to pre-loss condition and helping families and individuals like you is what we do.

Important Contact Info

Communication is vital throughout the process, so we’ve provided a helpful contact list to save you time and stress.  Be sure to keep this information handy.

You may want to save the contact list below in your phone’s notepad.

Understanding Fire & Smoke Damage

Fire damage goes beyond burning items:

  • Ash and smoke can continue to cause damage and corrosion to materials if they are left behind.
  • Odors from smoke will stay in a room or a home long after the fire and continue to cause problems if they are not removed.
  • In a few minutes, walls and other surfaces can be discolored.
  • In a few hours, finishes on kitchen appliances may turn yellow or show signs of etching.
  • Smoke causes etching in glass after just a short time, and smoke will tarnish metal quickly.

During a fire, smoke is driven by heat created by flames. No matter where the fire originates, smoke may penetrate throughout a building structure. Smoke also combines with humidity and can form corrosive residues that may cause secondary damage. Long after the fire is put out, the damage can continue, as remaining free-floating smoke settles on horizontal surfaces and contents.


Fire does burn, but residual smoke may burn as well. This is sometimes called etching, pitting or chemical burning. Quick response and action are critical. The more time that elapses before treatment, the greater the damage.


ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration is a highly reputable, licensed, insured and endorsed provider of fire and smoke restoration services. In addition to our years of experience, our uniformed Restoration Technicians have completed advanced training in fire mitigation, restoration systems and corrosion control. We also require continuing education to learn about new techniques and equipment to better serve you in your time of need.


It is our goal to restore your property as quickly and efficiently as possible. Depending on the source, nature and size of the fire, the cleaning and restoration may require several phases before completion.


While each fire or smoke loss is unique, the information in this recovery guide is general. However, we hope it will help answer your questions and aid you in understanding the processes and procedures for restoring your property. We understand that as the property owner, you deserve clear and thorough communication, and we will give our full cooperation to both you and your insurance claims representative.

We work to restore all property to a pre-loss condition when possible. Some items cannot be restored. Others could cost more to restore than they are actually worth. We will advise you and your insurance claim representative, and explain the limits of what we as professional restorers can do.

Understanding The Restoration Process

Our fire restoration process is thorough and proven. It includes:

  • Identifying the source to determine the type of fire that occurred
  • Evaluating the areas that are wet as a result of firefighting that may need treatment
  • Remediating water damage (if any)
  • Evaluating sensitive materials that may be damaged as a result of smoke and soot particles
  • Removing contents from the home, including:
    • Collecting immediate items you may need for the next seven days such as clothing, prescriptions, toys, school books, business needs, etc
    • Packing out the remaining contents for cleaning and storage


  • Performing structural restoration, including:
    • Removing any charred contents that may seal in smoke such as insulation and burned wood
    • Evaluating carpets and floor coverings that may need to be removed
    • Treating affected surfaces for smoke odors and sealing


  • Cleaning, eliminating odors and deodorizing surfaces to pre-loss condition
  • Returning items and helping to restore your normal life


Only Checked Items Need to Be Done to Your Property

The following information is a checklist of services and items that may need to be addressed in order to restore and protect your property, along with a brief explanation.


Our ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration Technician will walk you through this checklist. While not all of the items will apply, this information will help you understand the procedures involved in restoring your property.


We have identified the type of fire and smoke problem and the scope of the damage. The assessment includes a thorough visual inspection with photo documentation to determine the extent of the damage, enabling us to form the most effective plan for returning your property to pre-loss condition as quickly as possible. To ensure proper claims investigation, the area where the fire started must be secured and undisturbed until released for cleaning by your insurance representative.

Your damage has been caused by one or more of the following:

Food from the oven or stove has burned; strong burnt food odor exists; smoke residue is on contents and surfaces


Multiple natural and synthetic items inside the structure have burned; black smoke residue is on contents and surfaces; synthetic smoke odor exists; emergency corrosion mitigation is needed to protect at-risk surfaces.


Trees, shrubs and bushes have burned (example: forest fire); smoke has penetrated the structure from outside; smoke residue and odor are present.


Heating appliances such as oil-fired furnaces have malfunctioned and caused smoke to be distributed throughout the property.


Board up or cover with tarp to secure the property or protect it from the elements.

Inspect furnace or air conditioner unit; replace furnace filter, cover supply and return air vents to prevent cross contamination of smoke and odor into other areas; clean and deodorize duct work.

Turn off electrical power to address safety issues.

Restore electrical power to use lighting and restoration equipment.

Remove debris to clear a way for complete restoration and provide for worker and occupant safety


MITIGATION Extract excess water remaining from firefighting; check flooring and structural components for remaining moisture; set up drying and dehumidification equipment.


Corrosive by-products from smoke residues can cause irreversible damage in a short period of time; removing smoke residues and treating at-risk surfaces with a corrosion inhibitor will protect these items. Examples of at-risk surfaces: marble, stone, grout, aluminum, glass, fixtures, appliances, etc.

Empty refrigerators or freezers to prevent spoiling and associated odors; empty food cabinets; dispose of spoiled food items. Note: We recommend you keep a list of all disposed items.

Begin initial odor control measures such as ventilation to air out the property, application of deodorizers, placement of air filtration units, etc.

Arrange for emergency laundry/dry cleaning for several changes of clothing for immediate use while the remainder of your clothing is restored.

Sometimes, multiple treatments are necessary during the restoration process. That’s why we meet with you and explain all the details up front. In addition to providing step-by-step explanations throughout the process, we work closely with you to develop the best solution for you and your home.


We use a range of advanced deodorization tools to eliminate odor from your home:

Air scrubbers use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration to remove odorous particles from the air, enhancing the efficiency of cleaning and clearing the air for safe breathing.

Thermal fogging neutralizes odor, using a strong deodorizer that penetrates everywhere the smoke traveled.

Ozone is an oxidizing agent produced by a portable ozone generator.

OdorKlenz® technology contains a natural, effective deodorizing process that removes odors and air particulates using OdorKlenz-Air® cartridges in traditional air scrubbers.

Hydroxyl Generators use hydroxyl radicals to eliminate odor from the surrounding areass.

OdorKlenz and OdorKlenz-Air are registered trademarks of NanoScale Corporation.


Restoration laundry/dry cleaning

Performed by a restoration dry cleaner, this service Includes inventory control and documentation of clothing and textiles, including bedding, window coverings, etc.

Carpet and furniture cleaning

Includes inspection, pretesting, professional cleaning and deodorization, speed drying and covering to protect during structural restoration. May include reapplication of stain protection.

Structural restoration

Includes cleaning of ceiling and walls, as well as cleaning, polishing and deodorizing woodwork.

Hard-surface floor cleaning

Includes inspection and cleaning of marble, stone, tile, wood, laminate and other flooring. Floors are covered for protection during structural restoration.

Separate items

We will work with you and your insurance claims representative in the decision-making process on items we cannot clean or restore.


Whether it is furniture and upholstery, knick-knacks or other belongings, we use advanced products and systems to thoroughly restore smoke-damaged contents.

Hand washing and drying

Items are carefully cleaned by hand with extra care taken to use dry methods with water-sensitive items.

Ultrasonic cleaning

Ultrasonic tanks are used to clean certain items such as blinds, collectibles and other smaller contents.

Furniture and upholstery cleaning

This requires specialty equipment, products and technicians trained in furniture restoration.

Contents restoration will be performed:


At our warehouse facility

Packout services will be performed by:

ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration

Moving services will be handled by

ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration

A qualified moving subcontractor – Piano, etc

Some items may require a specific, qualified restorer such as: appliances, electronics, HVAC systems, furniture, textiles, antiques, artwork, etc. If so, we will work with your insurance company to manage this process for you.

Packout services

Some fires require that your contents and furnishings be inventoried, packed and safely transported to a secure, climate-controlled location for cleaning, deodorization, restoration and storage until the structural restoration is complete. Be assured that ServiceMaster Restore® Restoration Technicians are fully trained and will treat your possessions with the utmost care.

Your role in the packout process:

  1. Sign an authorization form.
  2. Identify immediate need items. (Medication, emergency clothing, etc.)
  3. Identify items to keep in your possession. (Personal valuables, jewelry, etc.)
  4. Assist with restore versus replace decisions, especially regarding family heirlooms and sentimental items.
  5. Be available on-site during packout and redelivery.

ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration will:

  1. Coordinate activities with your insurance claims representative.
  2. Separate items that will not be moved, including items that will not be restored.
  3. Pack, provide general inventory and transport your belongings to a secure facility. We will provide you with a copy of the general inventory.
  4. Inventory, pack and transport your belongings to our climate-controlled warehouse
  5. Provide a printed copy of the inventory to you as items are moved to our warehouse
  6. Perform restoration, cleaning, deodorization, repacking and storage.
  7. Track and document contentS
  8. Provide regular, frequent communication regarding the progress of your restoration claim.
  9. Arrange for redelivery of your household belongings once restoration and reconstruction are complete.

Frequently Asked Questions -Fire-

How long will the restoration process take?

Because there are many variables and many services involved in fire and smoke restoration, it is difficult to predict exactly how long the complete restoration will take. Consult with your ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration Technician on the estimated dates and phases of your restoration project.

Can I clean it myself?

We suggest that you do not attempt any “do-it-yourself” cleaning methods without consulting your ServiceMaster Restore Restoration Technician. Pretesting, using the right cleaning agent for the particular item, mixing deodorizing agents with cleaning solutions and using correct dilution rates are just some of the ways a fire restoration technician expertly controls the results. Professional cleaning systems and products used by experienced, trained ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration Technicians give you the best chance for complete restoration of your belongings.

What are some safety concerns?

At ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration, occupant and worker safety is top priority. During the initial inspection, safety hazards are identified and addressed, including debris removal, air quality, electrical hazards, slip and trip hazards, etc. Burnt electrical cords and appliances are separated out for disposal, and questionable electrical appliances are unplugged and tagged for evaluation of safe operation. Electrical power may be turned off and kept off until evaluation by a licensed electrician.

Can I turn on my heating and air conditioning unit?

We recommend that you not turn on your furnace or air conditioning unit without clearance from the HVAC contractor.

What items do I keep in my possession?

• Cash • Medications • Valuable Jewelry • Checkbooks • Personal Documents • Valuable Paintings • Flammables • Pets • Weapons/Ammunition • Gasoline Cans • Stamp/Coin Collections

How do I keep track of non-restorable items?

We recommend you make a list of items (including food items) deemed non- restorable. Use a format like the sample below, or obtain a similar form from your insurance company. Make a copy for your insurance company and keep one for yourself.

Do I need to move out of my property during this process?

This is ultimately your decision. Some things you may want to consider are safety concerns, odors, electricity, noise from equipment, etc. If vacating your premises for any length of time consider the following: forward your mail to your temporary residence; stop newspaper and other deliveries; notify utility company, cable company, etc., of temporary suspension of services.

Do I need general contractors?

There are some items that may require general contractors such as drywall/painting; electrical; plumbing; roofing; framing/finish carpentry; flooring/carpet; installation of doors, windows, cabinets, post-construction cleanup, etc.

Do my belongings need to be moved away from the premises?

Depending on the source, nature and extent of the fire, it may be best to remove all belongings to a secure facility for cleaning, storage and to make room for restoration or construction. ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration will work with you and your insurance claims representative to manage this process.

Will I have access to my belongings while they are in storage?

Yes, with advance notice we can schedule time for a ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration Technician to meet with you and provide access to your requested items. A service charge may apply.

What about special items?

Artwork, china, heirlooms, etc. Some high-value items require restoration by a specialist. Working with your insurance claims representative, we can help you identify these and locate a qualified restorer.

Who is responsible for paying for the service?

Ultimately you, the property owner, are responsible for payment and will need to sign a form authorizing payment for the restoration services. If this is an insurance claim, ServiceMaster Advanced Restoration generally collects only the deductible (co-payment) amount from you and bills the balance to your insurance provider as a service to you. If you have a large loss, your mortgage company may be included as a payee on the payment from your insurance company, and you may need to obtain a signature from them as well. If your claim is not covered by insurance or you decide not to file a claim, you will be expected to pay in full.

Frequently Asked Questions -Reconstruction-

How long will the reconstruction project take?

Because of the many variables involved, it is difficult to predict exactly how long the reconstruction project will take. Consult with your ServiceMaster Restore Project Manager on the phases of your reconstruction project and estimated completion date.

 What does pre-loss condition mean? 

ServiceMaster Restore is responsible for returning your home to how it was before damage occurred, or its pre-loss condition. We use materials of like kind and quality. There may be some damage that existed prior to your loss. Therefore, these damages have not been included in the scope of repairs.

At your request, ServiceMaster Restore will provide you with an estimate for any additional renovation projects, also called non-insured work.

What is non-insured work?

Any renovation project unrelated to your loss is considered non-insured work. At your request, ServiceMaster Restore will provide a separate estimate for a non-insured renovation project, and we will require separate authorization and payment terms. If non-insured work will delay the completion of an insured portion, then the situation must be discussed with your Insurance Adjuster and the ServiceMaster Restore Project Manager.

Do I need a permit? 

When required, your ServiceMaster Restore Project Manager will take out the appropriate permit(s) on your behalf, identifying the ServiceMaster Restore Franchise Business as the general contractor. If applicable, permit fees are included in the estimate and may be covered by the insurance company.

What is a code or by-law upgrade?

It is an upgrade that is made when your home’s pre-loss condition no longer meets legal building codes. Your insurance company may recognize code upgrades in the estimation process. Any questions regarding code upgrades should be directed to your Insurance Adjuster.

Will I have to be home all the time?

No, we will do our best to make sure you may go about your daily routine. For site access, you can provide a key to your Project Manager or opt for a lock box on the property.

Do my belongings need to be moved away from the premises? 

Depending on the scope of work, contents may remain on location. We will take appropriate measures to securely cover and protect contents. Any construction-related dust that collects will be addressed in the post-construction cleaning.



  • Place a smoke alarm on each floor of your home or business (and one in each bedroom at home). Store fire extinguishers within reach in the kitchen and utility areas.
  • Schedule service and cleaning annually for furnaces, heating systems, chimneys and fireplaces.
  • Avoid overloading electrical circuits. Check extension cords and fuse boxes or circuit breakers, making sure there is never a combination of appliances that exceeds 1500 watts on the same circuit.


  • Periodically check the following to ensure they are secure, in good condition and leak-free: hot water tanks, washing machine hoses, dishwashers, refrigerators and ice makers.
  • Clean your gutters every autumn to prevent backup and leaks.
  • Prevent frozen pipes and their disastrous results by keeping your home or business heated while you’re away on vacation. Close interior valves for exterior faucets during the winter months. Leave cabinet doors open during extremely cold weather to allow warm air in to help prevent pipes from freezing.
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