The good news about smoke damage is that your house or building is still standing, that the fire has spared the bulk of your property. That is the implication. Otherwise, why talk of smoke damage if everything has already gone up in smoke?
Smoke damage results from incomplete combustion. Meaning the fire has not grown out of control for some reasons: lack of oxygen (the windows and doors happened to be closed), non-flammable materials (the walls and ceilings were made of concrete), or a quick, human response to a potentially serious disaster (somebody noticed the thick smoke coming out underneath the door).
Smoke, especially in enclosed spaces, can build up to a thick poisonous cloud. Do not underestimate the deadly punch it can give to your lungs and eyes. You certainly do not want to do your breathing exercises under these circumstances. If you find yourself in a thick smoke for some reason, cover your nose and mouth and crawl out of it quickly. Feel your way down the stairwell or the emergency exit. A difficult maneuver because chances are you need to do this with your eyes tightly closed. The objective is to get out of there, quickly. Tumble and fumble, but quickly. People do die from asphyxiation or suffocation from a lack of oxygen or an excess of carbon dioxide. This is definitely not a pretty way to go.
However, having survived that ordeal, you can now deal with the smoke damage that the fire has left in its wake. Your egg-shell-colored ceilings and walls are now streaked with yellow and brown. Your upholstered furniture is pungent with smoke. In addition, so are your curtains, pillows, and rugs. There is a film of oily soot all over. Amidst all these, what should you do?
Tidying up comes first, so sweep and vacuum the floor. Air the rooms. Pull the windows and doors wide open and allow the fresh wind to circulate in and out. Depending on the seriousness of the smoke damage, you need to use nature’s helping hand, this airing, from a day to a week. Some smells stick. So wipe the walls and ceilings with soap and water, wash the curtains, shampoo the rug and the upholstery. Take a shower and wash the smoke out of your hair. Drive the millions of floating smoke molecules away. Spray air fresheners generously in the living room, the bedroom, the dining room, the bathroom.
For a while, your place will smell woodsy: orange blossoms with an undertone of burnt wood, or citrus with an undertone of burnt wood, or magnolia with an undertone of burnt wood. Think of logs burning in the fireplace. Think of… bonfires under the stars. Consider this phase as a return to a simpler life when human activities centered on the hearth and fire. Smoke damage can be very troubling psychologically. If romanticizing the smoke damage does not work, then consider the other option.
Hey, instead of smelling smoke you could be eating ash.
So, smoke damage and all, thank your lucky stars.