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After a Fire

It’s devastating to have a fire disaster in your home. The loss of your home and material possessions can be overwhelming. The flames, heat, smoke, and the water used to get the fire out, can cause very extensive damage to your property. Cleanup and restoration are possible, but it takes time and a little patience.

Danger Zone

Always check with the fire department before you re-enter your residence. If you have children, it’s best to leave them with a friend or relative due to the dangerous conditions.

Outside Inspection

Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines and foundation cracks. Check to see if the roof, chimneys, over hangings, etc. have any structural damage. Outside damage is an indicator of how safe or unsafe the building structure is to enter. Do this check from a safe distance.

Inside Inspection

Have a building inspector or contractor check to see if the home is safe before you enter. If the structure is declared unsafe, have the local police watch over the house. If you get the green light to enter, wear clothing that will protect you: Long pants, long sleeve shirts, boots, work gloves, etc. Many people get injured from cleanup after a fire disaster.

  • Check for the smell of gas or if you hear a hissing noise. If you do, get away from the property immediately and call the fire department.
  • Check for embers & smoke throughout the home (including the attic).
  • Avoid leaning on, pushing on, removing damaged building parts or furnishings.
  • Check the ceiling & floor for signs of sagging. The building materials may have been damaged by the water used to put the fire out.
  • Do not reconnect utilities. Leave this to the proper authorities and professionals.
  • It’s best to have a professional electrician inspect your electrical system after a fire. If you see broken or frayed wires or smell hot insulation, turn off the the electricity at the at the circuit breakers or main fuse box. Use caution while turning off the electricity and do not touch if a pool of water is nearby.
  • Avoid using sinks, showers or toilets if you suspect there is damage to the sewage lines.
  • Get rid all food (canned, packed, etc.), beverages, medicines, etc. that have been exposed to the fire.
  • Do not start cleanup on your own. Call a qualified restoration professional to begin the restoration process.


Call your insurance agent immediately to get you started with the claim process. All policies require homeowners to report their loss as soon as possible. Plus, if there are other homeowners affected by the fire, the sooner you call the better; you don’t want to drop to the bottom of the list by being the last one to submit your claim. It’s important to note that California requires insurance companies to send out a ?notice of intentions? within 30 days of receiving the fire insurance claims.

  • Get an advance: If you are forced to leave your home quickly, you may not have the basic necessities, such as a toiletries or clothes. Your homeowners policy will cover the cost to replace these items. Ask your insurance company to give you an advance to your eventual claim. Be wise with your expenditures; the insurance company will refuse to reimburse you for frivolous things.
  • Make a list of everything you lost. Taking photos or videotape the fire damage. This will help to support your claim against items lost during the disaster.
  • Keep receipts for everything from lodging, repairs, supplies, etc. Your policy will have a ?loss of use? clause, which entitles you to living expenses while your out of your home.
  • Keep track of all communication with your insurance agency or adjusters. Always make copies of all documents or pictures that you send. Take notes of every phone conversations ? date and time of conversation.
  • Take measures to secure your property from further damage. For example, board up your property to prevent vandalism. Every insurance policy requires you take reasonable action to ensure your property is protected against further harm.
  • Hire experienced contractors that are familiar with how insurance companies handle issues. Make sure that the your insurance company is in agreement with the scope of work that needs to be done.

Important Documents

You may need to replace many important documents lost in the fire. You can be proactive and keep these documents off the property before a disaster happens, such as a in safety deposit box at a bank for example. Such documents include: bankbooks, insurance policies, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, titles to deeds, stocks and bonds, income tax records, warranties, medical records, wills, animal registration papers and mortgage papers.


The IRS may grant additional time to file returns and pay taxes for homeowners and business recovering from a disaster. In a federally declared disaster area, individuals and businesses can get a faster refund by claiming losses related to the disaster on the tax return for the previous year.


You can do serious damage to your home’s structure and material items if you attempt to do restoration yourself. Restoration needs to be done by professionals. A qualified restoration technician will know the proper techniques and cleaning methods to restore the home and it’s items to their pre fire condition. Fire damage has many elements that need to be dealt with: Smoke odor, soot damage, water damage, heat damage, etc. It takes special training, knowledge, and experience to properly restore and clean the damage done by a fire disaster.