Have you just suffered a fire in your home? Restoration is often possible, but taking immediate action is important: Here's what to know.
Start Immediately and Call in Experts
After a fire, it's understandable that you are still in shock, worried about your family, and trying to think about what to do next. However, it's important to begin the restoration as soon as you possible can – we're talking about beginning the moment that the firefighters/other professionals let you back onto your property. The moment the blaze is taken care of, ask for advice on who to call for restoration services, and contact your insurance. The sooner you begin, the less damage the elements can do to your property.
Get Rid of the Smoke
Even after a fire has been extinguished, smoke can linger. And that smoke is bad news – those particles can actually be very corrosive, damaging not only your lungs but materials and walls around your house. As soon as you can, open windows and create some long-term ventilation to help get rid of smoke as quickly as you can.
Do a General Checkup for Serious Problems
While you shouldn't start the restoration process yourself – more on this in a bit – you should certainly take a quick check for any particularly serious issues that emergency responders may not have noticed. This includes any rotten-egg smell that indicates a gas leak, any indication of water puddles that show a leak has sprung, and any sagging in the ceiling or walls that shows serious structural damage.
Start an Inventory
Without moving too many things, begin an inventory process. List the things that are present and damage, and take lots of photos – this isn't difficult with today's smartphones! You'll want a full list of all damage items and photographic proof, preferably before claims agents or restoration experts show up.
Don't Clean Up Just Yet!
Restoration experts don't like people to clean up after a fire – preferably even a minor fire. For one thing, you might create even more unnecessary damage, especially if you try cleaning by yourself. Second, you may hurt yourself, especially if there are exposed wires or other problems. Just leave everything where it is and wait for professionals who know how to deal with this situation efficiently. If you have any items that you are particularly worried about or that are important, be sure to mention this to the restoration services and ask about using them again or finding alternatives.
Keep Appliances Off
Unless your fire is very localized, you should turn off all nearby appliances until after the inspection. Yes, this includes the refrigerator, so have a plan to deal with thawing foods if necessary. Also, shut down gas line or propane tanks if necessary. Turn down your thermostat or otherwise make sure that your HVAC cannot turn on – and spirit away smoke odors throughout your entire house.