You've Sustained Fire Damage: What Should You Do?

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A house fire can prove devastating, not only to your home but to your health, finances, and emotions as well. At a time like this, you're being confronted with such a hefty dose of reality that you're probably having trouble figuring out how to respond. Here are some actionable steps you can take to start turning your life right-side up again, from insurance to fire restoration.

1. Get a Status Report

Can you safely and legally inhabit your home after the fire has been thoroughly extinguished? Don't automatically assume that your home is a goner -- you might find that the damage is less extensive than you feared. The fire department can advise you as to when (or whether) you should move back in. Ask for a copy of the fire department's official report, which you can usually obtain through whatever local agency governs your fire department (or, in some cases, the billing department of the fire department itself).

2. Call Your Insurance Agent 

At the same time that you're ascertaining whether you can still use your home as a residence, you should be calling your home insurance agent to relay the fire damage in as much detail as possible. Let your insurer know whether you will need help with relocation, cleanup, living expenses, and fire restoration costs. A good insurance agent can offer a tremendous amount of material aid as well as emotional support and important information.

The second you've gotten off the phone with your insurance company, contact your family members, friends, and employer to let them know what's happened. You don't want your loved ones reading about your house fire in the newspaper or seeing the footage on TV without any foreknowledge that you're okay!

3. Survey the Fire Damage

If you've been told that it's safe to go back into your home, examine every inch of it to see just how much fire damage has occurred. If you're (relatively) lucky, only one part of the house may have burned, leaving the rest with only minor staining or odors. Cleaning the home yourself exposes you to unnecessary health hazards and may actually etch the stains more deeply into the walls or ceiling. But there are several helpful things you can do, such as:

  • Take pictures and make lists of every sign of fire damage, which will help support your insurance claim
  • Move perishable foods out of the refrigerator before they spoil
  • Start the ventilation process by opening all windows
  • Make sure your climate control system is off (so it won't kick up ash or toxic chemicals)

4. Hire a Fire Restoration Service

Any serious cleanup of your home will most likely require the services of a professional fire restoration service, also known as a disaster remediation service. These experts know how to determine which items need what kind of restoration and which items cannot be salvaged at all. They also remove stubborn ash and stains that resist non-professional efforts. Fire restoration specialists can:

  • Remove any objects smashed or deformed in the course of the fire and the firefighting effort
  • Scrub the walls, floor, and ceiling with specialized solutions before discolorations can become permanent
  • Ventilate the home as thoroughly as possible
  • Vacuum up any stray soot or extinguisher debris

Many fire restoration companies also offer a wide range of remodeling services. This will expedite the transformation of your home back to its former glory and comfort. Always ask your restoration company about its remodeling options or preferred remodeling partners.

Once you have set all the necessary steps in motion to regain control of your post-fire situation, you'll find that you can make calm, informed decisions. By taking prompt, sensible action, you can take back your quality of life and enjoy a beautiful home once again. Good luck!