A fire in a home can cause serious damage. The building and many of the things in your home may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke, and water.

You will find that things did not burn up are now ruined by smoke and soggy with water used to put out the flames. Anything that you want to save or reuse will need to be carefully cleaned.

The firefighters may have cut holes in the walls of the building to look for any hidden flames. They may even have cut holes in the roof to let out the heat and smoke. The cleanup will take time and patience.

Be prepared for a safe return.

What do I do now?

Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. They will help you find a place to stay and to find food, clothing, and medicine. Make sure that you have a safe place to live temporarily. Do not eat, drink or breathe in anything that has been near flames, smoke, soot, or water used to put the fire out. This also includes any prescription medications. Contact your physician so they may be able to prescribe clean medications.

 

Help your pets

If you have pets, find and comfort them. Scared animals often react by biting or scratching. Handle them carefully, calmly, and gently. Try to leave pets with family members, friends or veterinarians if you are visiting or cleaning your damaged home. Keep your pets out of the house until the cleanup is complete to keep them safe.

 

Security and Safety

Do not enter a damaged home or apartment unless the fire department says it is safe. Fire can rekindle again even if they appear to be out. Watch for damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and could collapse.

The fire department will make sure the utility services (water, electricity, and gas) are safe to use. If they are not safe, firefighters will have your utilities turned off or disconnected before they leave. Remember; do not try to turn them back on by yourself as serious injuries may occur.

 

Contact your Insurance Agent

Contact your insurance company right away. Ask what to do about the immediate needs of your home. This includes pumping out water and covering doors, windows, and other openings.

Ask your insurance company what to do first. Some companies may ask you to make a list of everything that was damaged by the fire. They will ask you to describe these items in detail and say how much you paid for them. If you do not have insurance, your family and community might help you get back on your feet. Organizations that might help include:

  • American Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Religious organizations
  • Public agencies, such as the public health department
  • Community groups
  • State or municipal emergency services office
  • Nonprofit crisis-counseling centers

 

Finances

Get in touch with your landlord or mortgage lender ASAP. Contact your credit card company to report credit cards that were lost in the fire and request replacements. Save all your receipts for any money you spend. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company. You will need receipts to prove any losses claimed on your tax return.

 

Tips on how to handle the damage

There are companies that are experts in cleaning and/or restoring your personal items. Whether you or your insurer buys this type of service, be clear on who will pay for it. Be sure to ask for an estimate of cost for the work and agree to it in writing. You will find the names and phone numbers for companies that do this work in the phone book and on the internet.

Ask your insurance company for names of companies that you can trust. These companies may provide services to:

  • Secure your home against damage
  • Estimate damage
  • Repair damage
  • Estimate the cost to repair or renew items of personal property
  • Store household items
  • Hire cleaning or repair subcontractors
  • Store repaired items until needed.

 

Replacing valuable documents and records

You will want to replace many of the following documents if they were destroyed or lost in the fire.

  • Driver’s license, auto registration
  • Bankbooks (checking, saving, etc.)
  • Insurance policies
  • Military discharge papers
  • Passports
  • Birth, death, marriage certificates
  • Divorce papers
  • Social Security or Medicare cards
  • Credit cards
  • Titles to deeds
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Wills
  • Medical records
  • Warranties
  • Income tax records
  • Citizenship papers
  • Prepaid burial contract
  • Animal registration papers
  • Mortgage papers