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Fire and Smoke Damage Testing Laboratory

Category Press Release
Publish Date 12/20/2017
Author Alexandra Gentile
Title California Fires Cause Widespread Destruction and Smoke Damage Concerns in Commercial and Residential Properties
Introduction EMSL Analytical, Inc. provides testing services, sampling supplies and test kits to identify smoke residues, mold, asbestos, lead and other potential exposure hazards.

San Diego, CA, December 20th, 2017

According to recent CNN reports, a half a dozen fires have scorched nearly 200,000 acres and destroyed almost 800 structures in Southern California. This extreme fire activity comes just months after 250 wildfires ignited across Northern California. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, there have been a total of 8,767 fires in 2017 that have collectively burned 1,329,314 acres across the state.

“Tenants, landlords and property owners who have homes and businesses in the area should be on the lookout for signs of smoke damage,” said Joe Frasca, Senior Vice President of Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc., a leading smoke damage testing laboratory. “Smoke can quickly infiltrate a structure and leave behind unpleasant odors and residues which can cause corrosion, etching and discoloration within the property. Its presence can cause indoor air quality concerns and even lower property values. At EMSL, fire investigation testing is used to identify the presence of char, black carbon/soot and ash. The results are often used to determine the extent of property damage, to address the sourcing of the damage or to determine liability.”

EMSL offers a diverse combination of testing packages as well as customized approaches to address the clients’ specific needs. The analytical complexity level and the overall value of the packages offered increases from level 1 to 4. Level 1 is a screening level, which is very affordable and valuable for quick and easy assessment of the overall degree of contamination. Levels 2, 3 and 4 offer analysis using the best analytical methods for confirmatory presence of all the analytes of interest (including soot confirmatory analysis based on ASTM D6602-13). In addition, EMSL offers chemical and asbestos analysis, which can be used during or after site cleaning in order to guide professionals in their remediation efforts.

Level 1

Char + Soot* + Ash

Level 2

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash


Level 3

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash + Common components of environmental dust (such as fibrous glass, biological material, cellulose, synthetic fibers, pollen, quartz, calcite)

Level 4

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash + Common components of environmental dust (fibrous glass, biological material, cellulose, synthetic fibers, pollen quartz, calcite) + Elemental composition of soot, char and ash by SEM/EDX + pH (to determine overall corrosivity of the dust)

Contextual Analysis

With the aid of site standards, this comprehensive level of analysis can be applied to determine if the fire debris in the samples are associated with the wildfire under investigation.

Chemical Analysis

Metals scan (CAM-17), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s,) Semi-volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC’s), pH for corrosivity, Anions scan

Asbestos Analysis

This testing has value when concerns of debris from asbestos siding, joint compounds or pipe insulation in the household hazardous waste exist.

*Soot analysis is limited to presumptive analysis level only. Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) analysis for confirmation per ASTM D6602-13 cannot be performed on tape lifts or Zefon CSI cassettes samples. In order to resolve the submicron size and the aciniform morphology of the particles, confirmatory analysis by TEM is needed.

EMSL’s San Diego laboratory offers Level 1 analysis and asbestos testing. The laboratory is located at 7916 Convoy Court, San Diego, CA, making it conveniently accessible to hundreds of local professionals. The laboratory can be reached at (858) 499-1303. To learn more about fire investigations or other materials testing services, please visit To view a complete list of EMSL’s laboratory locations, accreditations and capabilities, please visit For more information about EMSL’s testing services please call (800) 220-3675 or email

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.

EMSL Analytical, Inc. is one of the leading testing laboratories with 40 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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