What to Do After a House Fire

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 9, 2024

A home fire can occur with very little warning and cause extensive damage to the house and your belongings.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we’ve been providing fire damage restoration services for more than 15 years, so we understand the impact of this disaster.

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips for reclaiming your space after a fire, and keeping yourself and your family safe in the process.

Immediate Steps to Take After a Fire

fire damage chicago

1. Attend to Injuries and Burns First

Before you do anything else, make sure everyone is safe and that all injuries – even injuries that seem minor – are receiving medical attention.

Contact 911 so that a team of first responders can evaluate you, your family, and your pets and get you to the hospital if needed.

2. Check on Your Family and Pets

Once everyone involved has received medical care, keeping tabs on how you and your loved ones are coping is essential.

Watch your pets closely and keep them contained and under direct control since scared or stressed pets may run off.

If you’re having difficulty coping with the emotional aftermath of the fire, contact a therapist or healthcare professional for additional support.

3. Only Re-enter When It’s Safe to Do So

Even when the flames are out, a house can still be dangerous. Damaged roofs and floors can collapse, and fires can quickly flare up after the initial blaze has been extinguished.

Additionally, smoke and soot damage can cause health issues, including respiratory problems, bronchitis, asthma attacks, stroke, and heart attack – to name a few.

Because of this, you shouldn’t return to your home until the fire department determines it’s safe to enter.

This could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after a fire. The timeline depends on the size, source, and severity of the fire that affected your home.

Firefighters usually disconnect gas and electrical connections to a house as a safety precaution. Don’t try to turn anything back on if this happens in your home.

4. Contact Your Insurance Company

After a house fire, contact your insurance company to file a fire damage claim and get direction on the next steps.

Tip: If you’re renting the home, contact the landlord for input on what to do next. If you own the home but don’t have insurance, contact community groups to learn more about aid and assistance programs. 

5. Find a Place to Stay

If your home was severely damaged during the fire, contact friends or family to see if you can find a place to stay for a few weeks.

If you don’t have anywhere to go, contact local disaster relief agencies like the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, which may be able to provide temporary accommodations.

You can also check with your homeowner’s insurance provider since many policies provide stipends for temporary housing and relocation after fire damage.

6. Have Your Home Secured

If you can’t return to the property promptly, have the property secured and boarded up until you can finalize a restoration plan.

This prevents further damage from the elements and keeps curious bypassers from entering the home, which may still be unsafe.

7. Call a Fire Damage Restoration Company

Fire damage cleanup is never a DIY job.

A home fire leaves behind contamination that you can’t see or reach, and trying to clean it all up can actually make things worse.

By calling in a professional fire damage restoration contractor right away, you have the help you need to begin recovery quickly and efficiently.

Dealing with the Aftermath of the Fire Damage

dealing with the aftermath of the fire damage

1. Document Everything

Take photos and videos of the damage to your home to back up your insurance claim and expedite the payout process.

Be sure to focus on details like damaged or destroyed items, damage to the structure, and smoke, soot, or fire damage throughout the home.

2. Create an Inventory

Next, go through your items and create a loss list of everything that was damaged or destroyed in the fire.

This is important for insurance purposes, as it can help you secure reimbursement for your destroyed items.

3. Avoid Contaminated Food and Drinks

Once you re-enter the home, be mindful of what you touch and consume. House fires can easily damage packaged foods and canned beverages.

The heat causes spoilage while smoke and pollutants penetrate plastic containers and bottle caps. Firefighting chemicals are toxic, as well, so you should throw away any non-perishable food items you think may have been affected.

The USDA has written an informative guide on Fires and Food Safety for those who want to know more about this.

4. Get Rid of Hazardous Materials

Heat, smoke, and fire contamination can damage certain hazardous materials, including but not limited to pesticides, herbicides, hot tub and swimming pool disinfectants, home cleaning products, and fertilizers.

As such, we recommend safely disposing of these materials.

5. Get a Copy of the Fire Report

To make it easier to file an insurance claim, get a copy of the fire report from the fire department.

This will provide details about the type, cause, and severity of the fire and make it easier to navigate the insurance process.

6. Replace Documents and Money

If you lost important cards or documents during the fire or lost cash during the blaze, you may be able to replace them.

If your money was affected during the fire, handle it as little as possible and wrap each bill in plastic wrap to preserve it as well as possible.

If the money is only partially burnt, you can take it to the Federal Reserve Bank in your area to have it replaced. Alternatively, you can send burnt money to the Treasury to have it replaced.

Contact the relevant issuing agencies to replace critical documents, like driver’s licenses, titles and deeds, passports, birth, death, and marriage certificates.

7. Get Assistance from Local Agencies

If you’ve experienced a fire, seek assistance from local agencies like the American Red CrossSalvation Army, and local municipal emergency services offices.

These agencies may have resources, charities, or programs to assist individuals and families after a fire.

Don’t Try to Do It Alone

professional fire damage restoration

Cleaning up after fire damage can be difficult or impossible on your own. Here are a few benefits of working with a professional fire damage restoration team:

  • Comprehensive smoke damage cleanup. Traces of smoke and fine soot pose health hazards even after a fire is extinguished. Both contain microscopic particles that irritate eyes and respiratory systems, but professional cleanup techniques eliminate residual smoke and soot from your home’s structure.
  • Easier restoration for your belongings. Many flooring and furniture materials are synthetic, and they produce complex chemical reactions during a fire that quickly contaminate your belongings. Expert cleaning by a restoration specialist addresses this type of damage and minimizes expensive property loss.
  • Help with insurance claims. When you work with a fire damage restoration company, you’ll get assistance filing your insurance claim and securing the payout you need.

Need Help Restoring Your Fire-Damaged Home in Chicago? We Can Help!

Those first few hours and days after a house fire can be very hard to face. Be extremely careful about reentering your home, and remember that successful recovery depends on addressing the aftermath as soon as possible.

If you need additional assistance and you’re in the Chicagoland area, contact ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.

We’re here for you 24/7 with professional fire damage restoration services that get you back on your feet and return you to your home quickly and safely. If you need help now, give us a call now: 773-647-1985.