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Multifamily Residential Building Fires and the Indoor Environmental Quality Concerns Left Behind

EMSL Analytical provides laboratory testing services, sampling supplies, test kits and inspection tools to identify smoke and water damage, microbial growth and the presence of lead, asbestos and other potential hazards after a building fire.

Cinnaminson, NJ – WEBWIRE

The National Fire Data Center reported that multifamily residential building fires accounted for an estimated 109,700 reported fires each year from 2013 to 2015. This is a considerable number for multifamily residential buildings, which include structures such as apartments, town houses, row houses, condominiums and other tenement properties.

During those years, cooking (74% of fires) was the leading cause of multifamily residential building fires. Of the cooking fires, 93% were small, confined fires with limited damage. However, even with a relatively small fire, in many instances, smoke can impact other units in the building as it travels through shared walls, ceilings, attics, hallways, elevator shafts and other spaces. Smoke is made up of a number of combustion by-products that may include ash, soot, char and other materials that leave behind odors and residues which can cause corrosion, etching and discoloration within the property.

Even fire suppression efforts to put out a relatively small fire can cause water damage to building materials, furnishings and belongings. Water used to put out a fire on a third-floor apartment will makes its way down to the lowest level it can reach, typically resulting in water damage on multiple floors. While there may be obvious signs of damage, such as waterlogged floors or stained ceilings, even water and moisture behind walls and ceilings can cause damage and quickly lead to the growth of mold.

“Mold can begin to grow in as short as 48 hours on many wet materials and elevated levels of mold will impact the indoor air quality of the building,” said Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President of Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “Any airborne mold spores can spread in a manner similar to that of smoke, impacting multiple units. In addition, many multifamily residential buildings that require remediation and repairs following a fire could pose exposure risks if there are lead-based paints or asbestos-containing materials. If disturbed without the proper safety precautions in place, both workers and residents could be at risk.”

With dozens of laboratories across North America, EMSL offers testing services for smoke residues, mold, odors, lead, asbestos and other potentially hazardous materials. They provide all of the necessary sampling supplies, easy-to-use indoor environmental quality (IEQ) test kits and even offer building inspection tools. EMSL also recently sponsored an educational video about potential IEQ concerns following a fire in a multifamily residential building that can be seen at:

To learn more about testing for smoke and water damage, odors, mold, asbestos, lead or other indoor environmental quality issues, please visit, call (800) 220-3675 or email . For access to IEQ test kits, visit

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is one of the leading testing laboratories with 46 locations throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for mold, bacteria, Legionella, USP 797, pathogens, asbestos, lead, soot, char & ash from fires, VOC’s, odors, radon, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, microbiology, environmental, industrial hygiene, radiological, food, beverage & consumer products and material testing services for the identification of unknown substances. EMSL services both professionals and the general public. EMSL maintains an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies including, but not limited to A2LA, AIHA-LAP, LLC (AIHA-LAP, LLC EMLAP, AIHA-LAP, LLC IHLAP, AIHA-LAP, LLC ELLAP), NVLAP, CDC ELITE, CPSC, CA ELAP, NY ELAP, TX DOH, NJDEP and multiple other state accrediting agencies. Please visit our website at for a complete listing of accreditations. In addition, EMSL carries a wide range of Sampling Equipment and Investigative Products for environmental professionals.

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