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Magnum York recently hosted a Zoom webinar with Curtis Azevedo – Branch Manager, Edmonton from First Onsite Restoration to discuss the restoration process when emergencies arise. Curtis has been part of the First Onsite Restoration team since 2013 when he assisted in the Southern Alberta floods and has worked with the large loss team until recently stepping into the Branch Manager position in Edmonton.

Thank you to Curtis and First Onsite, as well as all those who attended. To sign up for future webinars, visit

Who is First Onsite Restoration?

First Onsite is a full-service disaster recovery and property restoration company, serving North America and beyond. With decades of experience and comprehensive North American coverage, they can tackle any challenge of every type, size, and scale. Their services include catastrophic event and storm recovery, water and flood damage and restoration, fire and smoke damage and restoration as well as emergency response planning.

What are the three kinds of losses?

  1. Natural Disasters – Such events include hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, and any destructive event that is outside of human control.
  2. Mechanical Failures – These are commonplace issues that occur primarily within your home and facilities. They include something as simple as a toilet overflowing or as complex as a burst pipe affecting multiple floors and rooms within a facility.
  3. Human-Caused – Man-made disasters, be they intentional or accidental. These incidents are unforeseen and can include arson, fires started from cigarette butts, vehicle impacts, vandalism, riots, etc.

Unfortunately, losses will happen. Being such an unpredictable event, even the best-laid emergency response plan can help a team prepare for such losses, but can’t prevent the eventuality of them.

Water Losses

Categories of Water Losses

  1. Category 1: Clean Water. Water that originates from a clean source and does not pose a substantial health risk, such as a broken water supply line or tub/sink overflow with no contaminates.
  2. Category 2: Grey Water. Water that contains significant contaminates and has the potential to cause sickness or discomfort, such as discharge from washing machines, dishwashers, fire suppression systems, broken aquariums, or melting ice.
  3. Category 3: Black Water. Water that is grossly unsanitary and can contain pathogenic agents such as sewage discharge from fire suppression systems, toilet backups, and ground surface water (overland flooding).

The categorization impacts how the restoration project will be carried out. During a category 1 and 2 loss, the area can be sanitized and cleaned and air movers can be placed in the affected area to speed up the drying process. On a category 3 loss, only a dehumidifier will be set up and no air movers.

Mitigating and controlling the response to a loss is very important. Oftentimes, the first 24 to 48 hours will have the most impact on the restoration process. If there were a clean water loss that continues to sit on unsanitary materials, the category would change from category 1 to category 3, regardless of the source of the water. This is because the water has had ample time to breed contaminates.

The biggest concern after a water loss is mould growth. time and temperature are the enemies of mould growth as it thrives in these conditions.

Classes of Water Losses

Once the category of a water loss is determined, it can also be assigned a “class” of water damage. Classifying damage gives an indicator of how much water is involved and the correct remediation processes that will be required. Water damage can be divided into 4 classes:

  1. Class 1: Water affects only part of a room, the damage is confined to a small area.
  2. Class 2: Water affects the entire room and wicks up the wall less than 24″.
  3. Class 3: Water that may come overhead affecting ceiling, walls, and floors. Typically multiple levels are affected in a condominium.
  4. Class 4: Water that affects hardwood flooring, subfloor, concrete, etc., making it more difficult to dry.

Structural Drying & Drying Equipment used

First Onsite uses many tools to remediate water loss. Some testing tools include:

  • Temperature (interior and exterior surface)
  • Relative Humidity
  • Specific Humidity
  • Enthalpy
  • Thermal Hygrometer
  • Contact Moisture Meter
  • Laser Thermometer
  • Thermal Imaging

The following drying equipment is most commonly seen on a water loss restoration project:

  • Water Removal Equipment: pumps and extraction units.
  • Air Moving Equipment: Centrifugal air movers, axial fans, scrubbers. These are typically seen on a category 1 or 2 loss after sanitization. These allow for the air in the space to be moved consistently which assists with the dehumidification process.
  • Dehumidification Equipment: Conventional refrigerant, low-grain refrigerant, desiccant. these are connected to hoses and a drain to remove the water. They are essential to the water loss restoration process.
  • Heating Equipment: direct fire heaters, electric heaters, radiant heaters. One way to encourage evaporation is through heat, but this depends on a case-by-case basis. It is critical to have air movement during the heating process.

Drying Process

It is critical to dry the space after a water loss to prevent further damage.

Magnum York YouTube – First Onsite Drying Process after a Water Loss

Fire, Smoke & Odour

This is the second most common loss for insurance claims. There are three classifications of smoke odour and residue.

  1. Protein Residues
    • Overcooked or burnt meat, fish, or beans.
    • Colour is between yellow and brown.
    • Greasy and sticks to most surfaces.
  2. Natural Substance Odour & Residues
    • Burned paper or wood.
    • Colour is between grey and black.
    • Dry powder-like texture
    • Residues are easier to clean and deodorize compared to protein and synthetic residues.
  3. Synthetic Residues
    • Burned material is oil-based such as carpets, upholstery, window shades, toys, and furniture, and tends to be made from synthetic materials.
    • Colour is usually black.
    • Thick, heavy, smeary residue.

Preferential Absorbtion

Porous materials and surfaces naturally absorb more odours than others. Such items are referred to as “natural wicks” and include fabrics, unfinished wood, paper, and unsealed concrete. Smoke residues can contain oils, vaporized during a fire which land and stick on surfaces which makes the residue difficult to clean. Plastics with lighter-coloured surfaces have the potential to stain or turn yellow when exposed to high temperatures and vaporized oils. Such yellowing can not be reversed.

The Behaviour of Smoke & Site Hazards

Many factors influence smoke behaviour. Understanding these factors help First Onsite understand where the odours can go and how best to remove them. The very nature of fire and smoke damage restoration can lead restoration teams to be exposed to a wide variety of hazards, so personal safety is of the utmost importance. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is always evolving to better protect those exposed and allow First Onsite to do their work safely and as comfortably as possible. The PPE includes respirators, disposable coveralls, gloves, boots, hard hats and safety glasses.

Magnum York YouTube – The Behaviour of Smoke

Controlling Air Quality & Odour

Machines are used for odour control, which includes:

  • Air Scrubbers – Take the air within the room, cleaned it through a filter and dispense it as clean air.
  • Ultra Low Volume (ULV) foggers – Are used as light fumigation to distribute and deodorize chemicals to remove odours.
  • Hydroxyl Machines – Used to eliminate odours and break down volatile organic compounds in indoor environments.
  • Ozone Machines – Used to eliminate odours but works very slowly, normally requiring 24 to 72 hours to be effective. They are not safe to be used while people or pets are present.


Mould is a respiratory and mucous membrane hazard. It can and will form in any damp environment and on almost any surface. Mould requires three components to grow; moisture/humidity in the air, lack of direct sunlight, slack air and organic material to feed off.

Although mould abatement is not regulated in Canada, there are various standards that do exist such as the Environmental Abatement Council of Canada and the Canadian Construction Association which First Onsite adhere to.

Type of mould include:

  • Aspergillus – Aspergillus mould can often be found on dead leaves, compost piles and other decaying vegetable matter, stored grain, and even foods and spices. The mould spores may be carried indoors on shoes and clothing and can grow on carpeting.
  • Cladosporium – Species produce olive-green to brown or black colonies, and have dark-pigmented conidia that are formed in simple or branching chains. Many species of Cladosporium are commonly found on living and dead plant material. 
  • Penicillium – Light white and green mould and is very commonly found in soil, on decaying vegetation and compost or on wood, dried foodstuffs, spices, dry cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables. They are also found growing on building materials in water-damaged environments as well as in indoor air and house dust.
  • Stachybotrys – This is a greenish-black mould. It can grow on material with a high cellulose content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, and paper. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth.

Mould Abatement Levels

There are three classifications of mould abatement levels, based on the size of the affected area:

  1. Level 1 – Less than 10 sq.ft impacted by visual growth.
  2. Level 2 – Between 10 – 100 sq.ft impacted by visual growth or high spore count on surfaces.
  3. Level 3 – Greater than 100 sq.ft. Level 3 abatements require a third-party Environmental Testing Professional to provide a work plan and conduct post-remediation sampling. PPE is required with level 3 mould abatement, the mould is removed and bagged for worker safety and is disposed of as normal waste.


Asbestos can be subdivided into two major classifications of minerals; Amphiboles and Serpentines. First Onsite tests for asbestos on properties built before 1990. It’s very common to find asbestos in properties built between the 50’s and 80’s and is a respiratory hazard only and is highly carcinogenic. It is typically found in drywall, pipe wrapping, caulking around windows, flooring, and within vinyl and ceiling tiles.

  • Chrysotile; the most common type of asbestos found in building material is a serpentine mineral. It is very flexible and less likely to be friable than the amphiboles. This is commonly found in drywall.
  • Amosite, Tremolite, Crocidolite, Actinolite and Anthophyllite are amphibole minerals. These fibres have single solid cylindrical shapes which usually only break transversally.
Types of Asbestos

Asbestos abatement is highly regulated in most provinces of Canada and licensing is required when dealing with asbestos. Alberta specifically has the Alberta Asbestos Abatement Manual which dictates to contractors how each type of abatement is supposed to be handled and includes requirements and best practices for each type of abatement.

As an owner, once asbestos is identified in a property, it does need to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. Contractors have legal requirements to report asbestos to the Alberta Government and create a notice of project in order to let them know the asbestos will be removed, which provides the opportunity for occupational health and safety to stop by and confirm that the processes being used are correct and up to standard.

There are criminal penalties for building owners and abatement contractors if asbestos is not handled properly.

Asbestos Abatement Levels

Depending on the type, amount and location of the asbestos and the potential for generating airborne asbestos fibres, the remediation process can vary.

  1. Low Risk (Type 1) – Minimal risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air.
  2. Moderate Risk (Type 2) – Moderate risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air.
  3. High Risk (Type 3) – High risk of releasing asbestos fibres into the air.

Catastrophic & Area-Wide Events

Catastrophic events are the most complex and demanding environments for a restoration team. During area-wide events, a lot of companies are using all their resources to deal with the event in a timely manner. Clients will be prioritized in these events. Such events can include complete building fires, hurricanes, floods, etc.

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