What To Do After a Fire In Your Home

What To Do After a Fire In Your Home

Home Security
By Mateos Glen Hayes October 29, 2021

On average, the United States has 358,000 house fires a year. That’s a big number but it becomes more significant when you consider that most houses in American suburbia are wood-framed. A house fire is a major safety hazard that can cause harm and damage.

As such fire safety is a paramount concern for all responsible homeowners. Preventative measures - installing smoke alarms, practicing a fire escape plan, and keeping a fire extinguisher handy - are the best way to keep a fire from happening in your house.

Alas, these disasters can and do still happen and it’s important to have contingency plans for that eventuality. If the unthinkable should happen to your house, there are a few dos and don’ts to bear in mind.

What To Do 

If you have a house fire, these are the things you should do once it has been safely extinguished. 

Have Your Home Inspected

Once the fire has been put out it’s important to assess the true extent of the damage caused. House fires can cause structural damage that will be hard to detect with just a cursory glance. The best thing to do in the aftermath of a fire is therefore to have your fire marshall check things out.

Even a seemingly minor fire can cause a lot of damage, and you don’t want to extinguish a fire only to walk into more danger. Since you’ll likely have to leave your house for a bit, start looking for places where you can stay in the meantime. If you can’t stay with friends, family, or in a hotel, humanitarian organizations such as the American Red Cross may be able to help out.

Who to Reach Out to After a House Fire

Who to Reach Out to After a House Fire

Collect Undamaged Stuff 

When you’re allowed to go back into your house the first thing to do is catalog everything that survived the fire. Once that’s done, the best thing to do is remove your items, clean them, and store them until you can get your house repaired. Leaving this stuff in place is a bad idea because it could get in the way of the home repair process, causing even more damage.

There are plenty of companies that will gladly store your stuff while you wait for your house to be restored to normal. Some will even offer climate-controlled storage space so your possessions will stay nice and cool during the unseasonably hot summer months.

Collecting Your Undamaged Items Should Be a Priority After a House Fire

Collecting Your Undamaged Items Should Be a Priority After a House Fire

Make a List of Damaged Stuff 

Having a house fire means that stuff is going to get burnt, so you’ll have to also make a list of damaged items. Cataloging everything that was damaged or destroyed will allow you to be reimbursed by your insurance company. However, you’ll need to provide detailed information for the claim to go through, so be sure to record makes and models, receipts, serial numbers, etc.

If you don’t have access to all this information, digital bank statements are very helpful as proof of purchases made. You’ll also need to take stock of any documents the fire may have destroyed. If a house fire incinerated important personal documents such as your birth certificate, medical records, tax records, drivers’ license, passport, or any other paperwork it’s a good idea to replace them as soon as possible.

Taking Necessary Measures to Account for Damage Control

Taking Necessary Measures to Account for Damage Control

Consider the Money Side of Things 

It won’t surprise you to hear that a house fire is a rather expensive problem. Aside from repairing damages, you’ll likely have to consider the cost of replacing lost items, repairing or replacing your car (if it was damaged), and other costs that can pop up. It’s important to cut costs in any way you can in the aftermath of a house fire.

If you pay for internet and cable, consider canceling those services until your home is repaired. Look into mortgages, car payments, and other recurring payments to see if you can have those temporarily put on hold. House fire repairs could cost anywhere from $800 to over $23,000.

How to Reduce Monetary Expenses After a Fire

How to Reduce Monetary Expenses After a Fire

Call the Cops 

An abandoned house is like a big welcome sign for unwanted visitors like squatters and looters, so you’ll need to take measures to protect your home. Be sure to let the police know that you’ve had a house fire so that they know to keep an eye on your property while you’re away.

Boarding up your windows will also help deter anyone from “visiting” your house and “borrowing” your things. Only board up your windows once you know your home is safe enough for you to go inside.

Post-Fire Security Measures You Should Consider for Your Home

Post-Fire Security Measures You Should Consider for Your Home

What NOT To Do

There are a lot of measures you should take after a house fire, but there are also a few things that you definitely should not do. 

Reenter Without Inspection

We can’t emphasize this one enough. Going back into your house after a fire without having it certified as safe beforehand is a bad idea. Your home could still be full of dangerous noxious fumes, smoldering debris, unstable floors, or any number of potential hazards.

Plus, most insurance companies aren’t gonna be too happy if you choose to go back into your house too soon. You could end up voiding parts of your coverage, and that will make recovery that much harder.

Your Safety Should Be a Priority in the Event of a Fire

Your Safety Should Be a Priority in the Event of a Fire

Turn On Your Utilities 

Firefighters sometimes turn off your electricity, gas, and water to keep your home from becoming more damaged. Before you can turn them back on you should wait until you get the green light from both your local fire department and your utility company.

Turning on your utilities without first checking can lead to new fires, flooding, and dangerous gas leaks. In other words, it’s a great way to cause another emergency after you’ve just got out of one.

Keep Your Utilities Turned Off After a House Fire

Keep Your Utilities Turned Off After a House Fire

Move Your Car 

Cars are an essential part of life in America so you might have the urge to try and save yours from the flames. However, you should refrain from trying to move your car during or after a house fire. Cars are full of flammable materials that can easily catch fire, and the last thing you want is to be trapped in a burning metal can with a tank full of gasoline. It’s best to leave your car where it is until you can get it inspected by a mechanic.

Avoid Getting in Your Car During or After a Fire Incident

Avoid Getting in Your Car During or After a Fire Incident

DIY Clean Your House 

As nice as it would be to clean fire damage all on your own, this is a job that is best left to the pros. Repairing house fire damage often involves fixing water damage, cleaning soot, removing debris, clearing smoke damage, deodorizing furniture, fabrics, and making other fixes. In other words, it’s a super-intensive process and you can’t do it on your own.  

Preventing Fires

Of course, the best thing to do is avoid house fires in the first place, and that means practicing good fire safety. House fires have common causes that can all be counteracted to mitigate risk. 

Common Causes

To counter the threat, you need to know where it’s coming from. The most common cause of house fires is cooking. Cooking grease can catch fire if it gets hot enough, as can plastic dishware and cookware. Metal pans can also become a fire hazard if they should overheat, and certain appliances such as hot plates and toasters can become a hazard if they are misused.

For this reason, it is best to always have someone in the kitchen when there’s any cooking going on so nothing gets out of hand. Unplug electronics when they’re not in use and never leave portable electric heaters unattended when they’re on.

If you’re a fan of candles, be sure to take special care with them so they don’t have a chance to fall over when your back is turned. A tiny candle can cause quite a bit of damage if you’re not careful so always blow them out before leaving the room.  

Preventative Measures to Take in the Kitchen

Preventative Measures to Take in the Kitchen

Fire Prevention Strategies

When all else fails it’s good to have a system in place to stop a fire in its tracks before it can grow into an inferno. Keep fire extinguishers and fire blankets handy in high-risk areas such as kitchens, garages, and laundry rooms. Install smoke alarms and be sure to test them regularly so you have an early-warning system in place. Simple precautions like these can go a long way towards reducing the risk of fire.

Common Strategies That Prevent a House Fire

Common Strategies That Prevent a House Fire

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes