Picture this. The area of California that was scorched from this fall’s massive wildfires is three times the size of Washington D.C. In just one 12 hour period, the fires devastated 20,000 acres of land … and at one point was advancing at the rate of a football field every three seconds.

Even once the fires were out, Northern California recorded the worst air pollution on record. Health officials start labeling air quality as “very unhealthy” at 201; there were times when Napa was in the 480’s.

It will take months, if not years to rebuild the approximately 8,500 homes, businesses, and other structures damaged or destroyed by the fires. And there’s an added element to recovery that Californians are getting whiff of now: odor removal.

The odor of smoke from a wildfire can become deeply set into many surfaces, even those that don’t seem exceptionally porous. Even homes not physically altered by the wildfire will need to be intensely cleaned and treated to remove the smoke odor for good. For restoration companies, this means using effective odor removal technology, and possibly taking further steps like sealing surfaces when necessary.

Health officials are also reminding homeowners and contractors alike of the hazards within the massive amounts of ash and debris left behind. Any chemicals, pesticides, plastic, paint, and so on that were within a home have now been reduced to part of the ash, which in some cases now is toxic. Health officials quoted in a New York Times article compare the health risks to those surrounded the World Trade Center ruins after 9/11. That said, the environmental effects could last long after the fires are out.