Cleaning up ash: Experts give tips on restoring homes after smoke, soot damage from wildfires

Even with windows closed, many SoCal residents find their homes covered in ash from the wildfires. Before you start cleaning, here's what to do first.

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ByRob Hayes via KABC logo
Friday, September 18, 2020
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Even with doors and windows closed, many Southland residents are finding their homes covered in a layer of ash from the wildfires. Here's how to clean up.

MONROVIA, Calif. (KABC) -- With wildfires filling the air with smoke and ash, medical experts are advising people to stay indoors as much as possible - but dangerous particles may be getting inside even though your doors and windows are closed.

Monrovia resident Mark Christensen suffers from asthma and it doesn't help that his home is less than a mile from the boundaries of the Bobcat Fire.

"You wake up and the whole house stinks with smoke," Christensen said. "And so that's been difficult because I've been having to hit my inhalers a ton."

The smoke-filled air is now being blamed for a long list of health issues, some more a nuisance than a threat, but others posing serious health problems.

"You could have things like just watery eyes, you could have a runny nose, you could have a scratchy throat," said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonary and critical care physician with USC. "There's a higher incidence of heart attacks, of strokes, of chest pain, of heart failure."

Clearing your home of fire-related contamination may require a professional restoration company.

Hamlet Ghazanian of RestoKleen says before you start cleaning ash and soot from your home, be sure to take pictures of it in case your home insurance reimburses for restoration services.

And don't try airing out your house just yet.

"Don't open the doors," Ghazanian told Eyewitness News. "Don't open the windows. Keep it closed still for the time being until (the air outside) starts clearing up."

Your main priority should be changing the filter on your heating and air conditioning system, which may be clogged with unhealthy particles.

Other tasks, like cleaning out an attic or swimming pool, may best be left to the experts.

Ghazanian says the price tag for restoring a home depends on the square footage and amount of contamination. But it won't be cheap.

"A normal cleaning process like this, it could run into thousands if not tens of thousands," he said.