Fire Damage Do’s & Don’ts
The thought of a fire is one of the biggest fears for homeowners and business owners. A fire can start at virtually any time due to a number of potential causes and fires very quickly cause widespread, devastating damage. After a fire, it is common to feel overwhelmed about what to do next as you survey the damage caused by the fire, smoke, and soot.
When a fire is put out, the damage does not stop as soot, smoke, and moisture from putting out the fire will continue to spread and cause damage. This makes it very important to take the right steps in the aftermath of a fire to limit the spread of the damage and prevent serious issues like permanent soot damage and major structural damage or collapse. In this guide, we will discuss the actions you must take immediately following a fire on your property, as well as the actions you should avoid to help limit the resulting damage and get your property restored.
Damage Caused by Fire and Smoke
Fires are dangerous because they can happen in an instant, put lives at risk, and cause extensive, complex damage. If a fire occurs on your property, you need to immediately ensure that everyone evacuates safely and call the fire department to put the fire out. You should not return to your property until the fire department deems it safe to do so.
The important thing to remember when a fire occurs is that it can cause significant damage in several different ways. The fire itself, as well as corrosive byproducts like smoke and soot, cause different types of complex damage and the damage will continue to spread and worsen even after the fire is out. Taking the right actions after a fire is critical to help stop the spread of the damage before your property can be restored.
The following damage can occur as the result of a fire:
- Structural damage: The flames easily burn through structural materials like wood, drywall, roofing, and flooring which can cause extensive structural damage that leaves a home or building unstable. The affected building could collapse due to structural damage from a fire.
- Soot and smoke damage: Fires create corrosive byproducts including smoke, soot, and oily residues. These materials are created by the burning of synthetic materials and partial combustion of organic materials like wood. Smoke and soot often cause more extensive damage than the fire itself because these materials keep spreading after the fire is out, including to areas the fire did not reach. The tarnishing and etching caused by smoke and soot can become permanent without effective cleaning.
- Water damage: The water used to extinguish the fire can cause additional damage as water gets absorbed into porous building materials. Absorbing the water can worsen structural damage and the presence of moisture raises the risk of mold growth.
- Damage to personal belongings: The most frustrating part of a fire is the damage it can cause to your personal belongings. Items like clothing, shoes, electronics, appliances, knickknacks, furniture, jewelry, and much more can be heavily damaged by fire, smoke, and soot. Many of these items are vulnerable to severe or even permanent damage.
What to Do After a Fire
When returning to your home after a fire, it is important to take the right actions to protect yourself and limit further damage. Taking the following actions will help you start the restoration process:
- Make sure you call our fire damage restoration professionals immediately to stabilize the structural damage and begin the restoration of your property.
- Document as much of the damage as possible by taking videos and pictures which will help with your insurance claim.
- Contact your insurance provider right away to file a claim. The sooner you start your claim, the better off you will be as an adjuster will come right away to survey the damage for an accurate assessment. You should also keep records of every interaction you have with your insurance provider, including emails and phone calls, as well as receipts for any money spent in the aftermath that may be reimbursed by your insurance provider.
- Prioritize your safety and only enter your home if the fire department tells you it is safe to do so. Always use discretion and avoid areas of your property that seem unsafe. When documenting the damage, make sure to do it as safely as possible and do not put yourself in danger.
- If the weather permits, open doors and windows to air out your home.
- If your home uses a forced hot air heating system, the air filter must be changed before you start using your furnace again.
- Throw away all food that has been exposed to the fire, smoke, or soot as it is likely contaminated.
- Document and/or set aside personal items that have been damaged so that our restoration professionals can inspect them and determine the best course of action.
- Try to limit your movement throughout the property to prevent soot particles from spreading.
What Not to Do After a Fire
It is just as important to know what not to do after a fire as taking the wrong actions can result in further damage to your property and put you in danger. The following are actions you must avoid:
- Do not enter your property until the fire department specifically tells you it is safe to reenter.
- Do not touch surfaces and materials damaged by smoke and soot including woodwork, drywall, and upholstery without wearing gloves because the oils in your hand can penetrate these materials and make soot damage worse.
- Do not try to clean walls, ceilings, or other surfaces damaged by smoke and soot because improper cleaning methods make the soot damage worse. The damage must also be evaluated by the insurance adjuster before any cleaning begins.
- Do not try to clean any type of damaged textiles including clothing, linens, carpeting, or furniture upholstery. These materials require professional cleaning and affected clothing must be cleaned by a restoration dry cleaner.
- Do not use utilities such as water, gas, or electric. Your utilities should be shut off until it is safe to use them again.
- Do not use any electronics or appliances, including computers, TVs, light fixtures, or washing machines, until each device has been properly cleaned and inspected for safety. Smoke and fire can disrupt electrical circuits which makes electronics and appliances dangerous to use.
- Do not consume food or drinks exposed to the heat, fire, or smoke.
Call ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration After a Fire
Fires cause extensive damage to homes and buildings that is overwhelming to deal with. However, taking the right actions in the aftermath of a fire while avoiding actions that can be harmful to your safety and your property will help you get your property back on track.
The most important action you should take after a fire is calling our professionals at ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration. We provide complete fire damage restoration services to fully restore your home or business back to its pre-fire state. Our technicians will arrive immediately to stabilize the building and start the pre-cleaning process to prevent permanent damage from smoke and soot. You can expect us to repair structural damage and effectively clean up smoke and soot using advanced methods and powerful cleaning products.
You can call ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration 24 hours a day at (303) 791-6000 for emergency fire damage restoration in the Denver, CO metro area and Elbert County.