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Homes left standing after Marshall Fire facing smoke damage impacts

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Posted at 6:53 AM, May 10, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — Among the more than 1,000 homes destroyed during the Marshall Fire, there are houses that are still standing. But several homes suffered extensive smoke damage.

Families are now left wondering if they're doing enough when it comes to cleaning their houses.

"There's no rhyme or reason to which house got more damage because of the way the winds were so random and strong," Dr. Amanda Mahaffey said.

Her home was spared from the Marshall Fire flames, but her family is still facing several challenges.

"It's as clean as it's ever going to get, but we still experience symptoms, and, you know, there's a smell still, and I wake up every morning with a little bit of a sore throat and stuffy nose," she said. "A lot of people are asking what is right? What is safe? What should we be doing?"

James Lieberman, a certified industrial hygienist from Boulder, has been assessing the chemical impacts inside impacted homes.

"There's a lot of misinformation. There's a lot of scare tactics out there. If they're going to hire somebody, please ask them to make sure that they have their qualifications," Lieberman said.

He said his samples found a significant amount of charring and ash in some homes, which can damage electrical equipment. He has also found heavy metals and lead in the debris of some carpets.

"Many times, when I see carpet in a home that was severely affected, I just tell them to take the carpet out of the home completely. If they have a nice, relatively new carpet, and they want to clean the carpet, then there's only one method that I suggest and that is hot water, deep extraction," he said.

He said some things are too hazardous to keep if the home was severely impacted.

"Unfortunately, child stuffed toys and things like that, if the home was significantly impacted by smoke, you need to throw those away. Comforters can't be cleaned that effectively. Mattresses are very difficult to clean," he said.

Depending on the condition of clothing, he said it can be dry cleaned or put in the washer. Hard surfaces around the home should be fairly easy to clean with typical cleaning products.

Lieberman said heating and air conditioning system filter should be checked and replaced, and homeowners shouldn’t try to mask any odors.

For the Mahaffey family, being back home hasn’t been easy.

"We've got fire zone the whole way, and driving past it every single day, it's an odd thing for children," Mahaffey said.

Day by day, the family continues working to put the pieces back together.