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In recent years, there has been an increasing number of complaints relating to the sudden and unexpected appearance of soot-like material observed in homes and commercial buildings. These stains may form on carpets, walls, plastic objects and other materials, and have been noted around ventilation grilles and electrical outlets. The culprit for this “ghosting” phenomenon is the formation of Black Carbon. In Southern California Wildfires, Rarefied Air Environmental has extensive experience in confirming the presence and identifying the source of Black Carbon.

Black Carbon is a fine-grained solid residue that results from incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. Common sources of Black Carbon that can cause residential or commercial property damage in Southern California are from Wildfires but may include candles, fuels such as oil, propane and natural gas used in gas appliances and gas log fireplaces, firewood burned in a fireplace or a wood-burning stove.

Identifying the origin of combustion product formation can help to eliminate potential sources. When complete we offer the most comprehensive reports in the industry. Detailed by pictures and sample analysis the report will also include a scope of work to be performed.

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Wildfire Soot Claims

A growing concern in the insurance sector is soot and smoke damage claims due to wildfires. Some of these fires can affect properties hundreds of miles downwind, causing the potential number of claims to be astronomical. Besides the known risks for respiratory and other health problems, smoke, soot, and char can cause physical damage ranging from settled ash to property damage.

Depending on the type and amount of soot, the remediation can range from simple cleaning to professional cleaning and even replacement of soft goods (fabrics and carpeting) and/or electronic appliances.

Let’s start with some common questions on the matter:

What is soot?

  • Soot is the carbonaceous deposits remaining after incomplete combustion
  • Soot is typically black or gray, whereas ash is typically white or light gray
  • Soot can contain traces of the fuel that caused it, allowing the identification of the source
  • Soot and the combustion byproducts associated with it can be harmful

Why is soot formed?

  • A fuel burns with less than the optimum oxygen present
  • A fuel burns in windy or turbulent condition
  • A poor or contaminated fuel burns. Some products generate more soot when they burn than others (rubber tires vs. paper, for example)

What are the most common sources for residential soot?

  • Smoking
  • Candles
  • Fire Places
  • Cooking
  • Heater malfunctions
  • Wildfires nearby
  • Interior fires (cooking, appliance etc)

A relatively inexpensive examination of the property can give a good assessment of the potential loss and possible sources of any observed soot. In most cases, the examination will collect enough information to evaluate the scope and validity of the claim. The onsite examination typically includes the following:

  • Interview the residents for history and loss allegations
  • Document the property and any visible smoke or soot damage with photographs
  • Identify any specific locations of visible soot
  • Collect surface samples
  • Collect wipe samples
  • Submit samples to our laboratory for analysis

At Rarefied Air Environmental we do not simply perform a chemical sponge wipe test. We offer a comprehensive detailed report with empirical evidence to substantiate the loss.