What To Do After A Major House Fire


WRITTEN BY: Mark Romero

UPDATED: NOVEMBER 04, 2022 | 2 MIN READ

House fires are one of the most common causes of accidental death in the United States. The US Fire Administration, a Federal Emergency Management Agency division, found that house fires caused an estimated 3704 deaths in 2019.

On average, a fire department responded to a fire somewhere in the US every 23 seconds in 2020. A home structure fire was reported every 89 seconds, a home fire death occurred every three hours and 24 minutes, and a home fire injury occurred every 46 minutes.

This article will teach you how to keep your house safe from fire and what to do if you smell smoke or see smoke coming from your home.

The Fire

A house fire is a scary situation, and there are many things that you should do to be safe during one. This is an overview of some of the things that you should do during a house fire.

What to do about a house fire?

  • Call emergency services and stay on the line with them until they arrive at your location.
  • Leave immediately and get yourself and your family members to a safe place if you smell gas or if you see anything that could be on fire.
  • Close all doors and windows as soon as possible, except the front door.
  • Turn off all electrical appliances before leaving your home if it is safe.
  • Turn off gas and electricity to prevent an explosion in case the fuel lines ignite from the heat of nearby fires or other sources.
  • Evacuating the building for your safety is important to protect yourself and first responders. You should not wait until you hear the sirens or see the flashing lights before you leave.

The Damage

After a major house fire, the first thing to do is call the fire department.

After the fire is put out, it’s important to remember that three levels of damage can happen:

  1. Structural damage – This is the damage caused by heat and smoke from the fire. Structural damage can be caused by water damage, so it’s important not to use water on any part of your home until you’ve been permitted by a professional.
  2. Electrical damage – If you smell burning wires or see sparks coming off of them, it’s best to leave your home and call 911 immediately.
  3. Toxicological/chemical damage – If you smell anything unusual or if your eyes itch or burn, it could be a sign that there are chemicals in your system, like a gas or chemical used by the workers.

Before beginning any restoration work, you should thoroughly inspect the house. This allows you to trace down all your possessions and valuables. You should also try and salvage as much as possible from the damaged areas of the house.

The Clean Up

If your home has been damaged by fire, you must know how to restore it. However, this process can be complicated and time-consuming if you don’t know the best ways to go about it.

Depending on the severity of the damage, it might be worth bringing in professionals. A local disaster relief service like the American Red Cross can help or can point you in the right direction.

The damage mitigation or restoration company will also clean and store your belongings until it’s time to move back into your home.

The cleaning service is valuable because you don’t want to expose yourself to the toxic chemicals from the fire.

They will do a good job cleaning most items, but there will still be things you’ll probably want to throw away when you move back in, either because they can never truly be cleaned or because they remind you too much of the fire.

The storage fees will add up over time while you’re out of your house, so this is another good reason to pick a fire damage restoration company that works with your insurance.

More about damage mitigation:

The damage mitigation company will also clean and store your belongings until it’s time to move back into your home.

The cleaning service is valuable because you don’t want to expose yourself to the toxic chemicals from the fire.

They will do a good job cleaning most items, but there will still be things you’ll probably want to throw away when you move back in, either because they can never truly be cleaned or because they remind you too much of the fire.

The storage fees will add up over time while you are out of your house, so this is another good reason to pick a disaster mitigation company that works with your insurance.

How Should You Handle the Aftermath of an Accident Displaced You from Your Home?

There are several different factors to consider when dealing with the aftermath of a disaster that forces you to live elsewhere. This can include your emotional state, your financial status, and the logistics of finding and securing a new home.

The first step is to understand what happened. What was the cause of the disaster? How did it affect your family and friends? What are some of the immediate concerns you should be aware of?

Once you understand what happened, it is important to start thinking about how you will handle these issues in the future. How will you find a new place to live? What if your home isn’t habitable anymore? Will there be any financial assistance available for those affected by this disaster?

Temporary accommodation

Your homeowners insurance company should have a section for additional living expenses in your insurance policy. This is intended to help you find where to live after a disaster that renders your home unlivable. 

Making an insurance claim can seem daunting, but it’s hard to say how long you’ll be displaced from your home, so you’ll need to do so get the help you require.

The insurance company has 90 days to release your payout, so count on renting for at least that amount of time, plus whatever estimate your contractors gave you to complete the work. Finding something minimally comfortable can help stretch this amount as far as you can.

Websites such as Homeaway and Airbnb can offer assistance in finding a place to say. Many people rent out their homes/apartments for one month at a time.

If the fire has damaged a significant portion of the house, it might be wise to try to rent for six months to a year, assuming you can find something furnished. Plan to do this early, while the insurance is willing to cover first, last, and deposit.

Please communicate with your insurance company immediately after you’ve found a place to stay so you can coordinate how they will pay you.

Meeting with Adjusters

Your Insurance Adjuster

You should speak to your insurance agent about the disaster as soon as you’re safe. If your insurance company is any good, they should send out an adjuster within the day.

In addition, you should expect them to send an investigator to determine the cause of the fire. The fire department will have already done this, but the insurance company will repeat it. 

Preparing for the insurance adjuster

Let them do their job if you’ve hired a damage mitigation company through your insurance. They should know what the insurance company expects of them. 

If you hired a separate company, ensure they don’t clean anything they’re not supposed to. When the adjuster from the insurance company arrives, you want them to be able to see the damage.

Take pictures and focus on preventing more damage than cleaning up the mess. Get the water off the floor, but don’t clean up debris if you don’t have to. 

Hiring A Public Adjuster

It also might be worth getting in touch with a public adjuster. The insurance company’s adjuster and a public adjuster will work for you.

They’re costly, but it’s hard to put a price on someone who will handle the bulk of the communication for you during this time. They will take a percentage of the payout, but they also increase the average amount of a payout significantly. 

The public adjuster will help you catalog any possessions damaged by the fire and make a list to send to your insurance company. It’s best to have a specific index with brand names and model numbers where applicable.

They will also communicate with your insurance company and ensure that you’re getting paid on time and the maximum amount you deserve. 

If you’re comfortable communicating daily with the insurance carrier, you can avoid hiring the adjuster.

Remember that a lot of paperwork needs to be done, and you’ll be responsible for sending all the proper documentation to the insurance company. Even with a trained public adjuster, you may have to send out several documents multiple times. 

Repairing the house

After you’ve found somewhere to live and have some semblance of life returning to normal, you will want to start trying to repair the house. Drying everything out will take days; depending on the damage’s severity, you’ll need to do a lot of clean-up. 

Enlisting the services of a restoration company may be a wise move at this point.

Safety tips for protecting your home from future fires

There are many different reasons for fires in homes, but the number one cause of fires is accidental. The leading cause of these deaths was smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • The best way to prevent fires in your home is to have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector installed on every level of your home. To find out where to install these alarms, visit the NFPA website to learn more about the risk to your home and how to reduce it by buying and installing smoke alarms.
  • Ensure you have fire extinguishers in every room that could pose a fire hazard, such as the kitchen or garage.
  • It might also be worthwhile keeping important documents such as birth certificates and copies of your driver’s license in a safe place outside of your home.

FAQs

What steps to take after a house fire?

The first step for the homeowner after a major house fire is to get out. The second step is to call 911 and let them know what happened. The third step is to stay out of contact with the house for about an hour so that firefighters can come in and put out any remaining fires.

The fourth step can be the hardest one – figuring out what went wrong and how you will fix it. As soon as you know what went wrong, you should start looking into insurance coverage and whether or not your home qualifies for rebuilding assistance from the government.

How do you mentally recover from a house fire?

It is natural for emotions to run high after a house fire, but it is important to remember that the situation is not permanent. The first step in recovering from the disaster is to take an inventory of all the changes that have occurred in your life. From there, you can begin to rebuild your life and home.

What do you do when you lose everything in a fire?

You may find it difficult to cope when you lose everything in a fire. You may feel helpless and lost. However, if you are lucky enough to have insurance, your insurance company will help provide for your needs during this time of crisis. If you don’t have insurance, the first thing that should come to mind is contacting your family members and friends. They will be able to help provide for your needs until you can get back on your feet again.

What can be saved after house fire?

The most important things to save are your loved ones and pets. Other things to try to save are sentimental personal items such as photos and keepsakes. If you cannot retrieve your insurance policy from the house, then it is important that you save as many documents as possible – bank statements, tax documents, identification cards, and birth certificates.

Can I use my dishes after a house fire?

If there is no damage to the dish, it can be salvaged and reused for food. However, if there are cracks or chips in your dishes, then they should be thrown away.

What is a good way to start over after a house fire?

Make sure you take enough time to recoup your mental health. Then, if anyone is kind enough to donate items to you and your family, don’t be afraid to accept the help. Replace items as needed rather than trying to purchase everything at once.

How do you pack after a house fire?

Only pack things if it’s safe to do so. Make sure you take any keys you may need, including car keys. Additionally, try to grab any medication you or your family members need. Any pet supplies such as leashes or collars should also make a list. Don’t forget any essential documents.

What should you do if your house catches on fire?

If you aren’t at home, find a safe place and stay there until the fire is out. Leave immediately and go to a safe place. If you have an evacuation plan in place, follow that plan. If the fire has destroyed your home, evacuate your belongings immediately and take them with you when you leave the area.

How do you check for smoke damage?

Smoke damage is not always visible. There may be further damage than just what you can see, so if your home has experienced a major fire, it’s best to call in restoration services who will look for smoke damage as part of the restoration process.

What are 5 things to do after a house fire?

Creating a fire checklist may be useful in case you ever need it. Five things that should be on the list are: leaving the building as soon as possible, taking care of pets and loved ones, calling emergency services, calling your insurance provider, and documenting the damage.

What are the dangers of house fires?

Many dangers come with living in a house, including fire. A house fire is one of the most common causes of death in the United States, and it is important to know what to do if you find yourself in one.

House fires can be caused by anything from an electrical outlet to a cigarette left on a bedside table. The most common cause of house fires is faulty wiring and appliances, which can often lead to electric shock or fire.

What is the best way to protect my home from a house fire?

Installing smoke alarms, keeping a fire extinguisher in rooms that may be a fire hazard, removing furniture that could catch fire easily, and learning and carrying out fire safety tips are the best ways to of fire prevention.