After The Fire

After the Fire

Insurance and Other Assistance:

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
  • If you are not insured, contact your lawyer or the IRS for directions.
  • Contact the American Red Cross (443-4521) for disaster relief services.

Your Property:

  • Secure the site from further damage by weather, theft, or vandalism. This is the owner's or occupant’s responsibility.
  • Check with Fire Department to see if utilities are shut off and if structure is safe to enter.
  • Inventory damaged personal property.

Note in detail the quantity, description, cost, how long you have had the items, the damage sustained and replacement cost. Take photographs if possible. Do not throw away damaged goods until the inventory has been done.

  • Do not contract for estimating, inventory or repair services without first consulting your insurance agent.
  • Save all receipts for expenses incurred due to fire.

If You Have to Leave Your Home:

Remember to take the following:



·Eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other personal aids

·Valuables - credit cards, checkbooks, insurance policies, savings account books, money, jewelry, etc.

If you relocate, notify:

·The Fire Department – 441-4000

·Your employer

·Delivery services

·Family and friends

·Your insurance agent

·The mortgage company

·The Post Office

Document Replacement

The following is a checklist of documents that are commonly lost in a fire. Under the type of document is the institution or agency to contact for a replacement.

Financial Records:

  • Bank books
    Your bank, as soon as possible
  • Credit cards
    The issuing companies, as soon as possible
  • Income tax records
    The Internal Revenue Service Center where you filed, or notify your accountant
  • Stocks and bonds
    Issuing company or your broker

Identification and Licenses:

  • Driver's license
    Local office of the Dept. Motor Vehicles
  • Passports
    Local passport office
  • Welfare recipient identification cards for check cashing, medical aid, or food stamps
    Your case worker

Legal Documents:

  • Birth, death, marriage certificates
    State bureau of records in the state of birth, death or marriage
  • Citizenship papers
    The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • Divorce papers
    Circuit court where decree was issued
  • Military discharge papers
    Local office of the Veterans Administration
  • Social Security or Medicare cards
    Local Social Security Office
  • Wills
    Your lawyer


  • Auto registration title
    Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Titles to deeds
    Records department of city or county in which the property is located
  • Prepaid burial contracts
    Issuing company

Money, Coins, Savings Bonds:

Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only half-burned or less (if half or more of the bill is intact), you can take the remainder to your local Federal Reserve Bank for replacement. Ask your personal bank for the nearest one. Or you can mail the burned or torn money via FIRST CLASS REGISTERED MAIL to:

US TreasuryDepartment
MainTreasuryBuilding, Room 1123
Washington, DC20220

Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to the Federal Reserve Bank, or mailed via FIRST CLASS REGISTERED MAIL to:

Superintendent, US Assay Office
32 Old Slip
New York, NY10005

If your US Savings Bonds have been mutilated or destroyed, write to:

For Bonds, include name(s) and address(s) on bonds, approximate date or time period when purchased, denominations and approximate number of each.

US Treasury Department
Bureau of Public Debt
Division of Loans and Currency
537 South Clark Street

Chicago, IL60605
Attn: Bond Consultant

Other Papers

  • Animal registration papers
    Society of registry
  • Insurance policies
    Your insurance agent
  • Medical records
    Your doctor
  • Warranties
    Issuing company

Salvage Tips

Soot, smoke and water stains can often be washed from clothing. Use the following formula.

  • 4-6 tablespoons of TSP, - (Tri-sodium phosphate) (2 tablespoons of sodium- hypochlorite can be substituted)
  • 1 cup of household chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon of water
  • Mix well, soak clothing, rinse with clear water and dry well
  • Wear plastic gloves

Mildew may be removed by washing the fresh stains in soap and water, rinsing and drying in the sun. NOTE: mildew is a bacteria growth, not simply dirty. If stain and odor are not removed initially try: Lemon juice and salt, or 1 tablespoon of perborate bleach in 1 pint of lukewarm water, or diluted solution of household chlorine bleach.

Cooking Utensils:

  • Wash pots, pans, flatware with soapy water, rinsed, and polished with a fine powdered cleaner.
  • Soak wood utensils in soap and water to insure smoke particles are out.

Electrical Items:

  • Household wiring may have been water damaged, have inspected by a licensed electrician.
  • Gas or electrical services shut-off? Call the utility company; only the utility company can restore these services.
  • Do not use appliances if wet or damp, until they are checked by an appliance service person.

Flooring and Rugs:

  • Linoleum and vinyl floor coverings that water is beneath may have to be removed. Dampness can cause odors and warp floors.
  • Let floor dry completely, prior to replacement of floor coverings. If mildew is not killed, odor will return.
  • Rugs and carpeting must be allowed to dry thoroughly. Flush dirt out first. Dye in rugs will bleed worse the longer they remain wet.
  • Lay rugs flat and expose them to circulation of warm dry air.
  • Wall to wall carpet is usually better cared for if left in place. It can be cleaned professionally or with a commercial rental machine. Restretching may be needed.
  • Brush pile carpets in one direction to dry.
  • If furniture cannot be removed, cover legs with aluminum foil or plastic to avoid rusting or stains on carpet.
  • CAUTION - You can receive an electric shock if vacuum is not designed to pick up water.
  • For more information, contact your local carpet dealer.

Beverages, food and medicines exposed to heat, smoke or soot should be discarded.

Remove odor from your refrigerator or freezer:

·Wash inside with a solution of baking soda and water

·Or use 1 cup of vinegar or household ammonia to 1 gallon or water

·Baking soda in an open container, or a piece of charcoal can be placed in refrigerator or freezer to absorb odors

Leather and Books:

  • Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth.
  • Stuff purses and shoes with newspapers to retain shape.
  • Leave suitcases open.
  • Leather goods should be allowed to dry in a well ventilated area away from direct sun or heat.
  • Use of a polish or saddle soap on smooth leather items can restore necessary lanolin and oils.
  • Suede items can be brushed with a light steel wool, fine wire brush or fine sandpaper.
  • Books can be dried by placing them on end, following by pressing the book together - when reasonably dried, alternate drying and pressing to help prevent mildew until thoroughly dried.
  • Sprinkling cornstarch or talc between the pages will aid in drying of very damp books - leave powders on for several hours and lightly brush off.
  • If drying of books will be delayed place in cold storage to delay mildew from forming.
  • Consult a dry cleaner for heavily stained leather garments.

Locks and Hinges:

  • Take apart, wipe with kerosene and oil.
  • If they cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through bolt opening or keyhole and work knob to distribute the oil.


  • Reconditioning an innerspring mattress at home is very difficult, if not impossible. Replace the mattress, or take to a company that builds or repairs mattresses.
  • It is impossible to remove smoke odor from pillows, replacement is best.

Walls, Furniture and Draperies:

To remove soot and smoke from walls furniture and floors, do the following. Mix together:

·4-6 tablespoons of TSP

·1 cup Lysol or any chloride bleach

·1 gallon warm water

·Wear rubber gloves when cleaning.

Wash articles, rinse with clear warm water, and dry thoroughly. Walls may be washed down while wet, use a mild soap detergent, wash from the floor up, rinse immediately, wash ceilings last. Do not repaint until walls and ceilings are completely dry. Wallpaper - contact the local wallpaper dealer for more information. Loose wallpaper can be reattached with a commercial paste.

Wood Furniture and Fixtures:

Smoke and soot will often travel to areas where the fire has not reached. Therefore, for smoke and soot damage as well as water damage, care must be taken when cleaning wood furniture and fixtures to prevent surface scarring:

·Wipe off all finished surfaces with a soft cloth dampened with a mild cleaning solution

·Remove all drawers and open cabinets so they can dry thoroughly. This will prevent sticking.

·Clean friction surfaces (tracks and guides) with a stiff brush and cleaning solution.

·Dry thoroughly; wet wood can mold and decay. Open doors and windows for ventilation and if necessary, turn on a heater or air conditioner.

·If mold is present or forms, wipe the area with a cloth soaked in a mixture of water and kerosene or Borax dissolved in water.

·Do not dry furniture in the sun. The wood may warp and twist out of shape.

·To remove white spots or film, rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup of household ammonia and 1/2 cup of water. Wipe dry and polish with furniture wax or a solution of 1/2 cup turpentine and 1/2 cup of linseed oil.

·You can also rub the wood surface with a 4/0 steel wool pad dripped in liquid polishing wax, wipe with a soft cloth and then buff.

·For draperies damaged by smoke or odor, a reputable drapery cleaner should be contacted for a free estimate.

CAUTION: Most furniture polishes and the turpentine-linseed solution are flammable. The cloth used in applying them is susceptible to spontaneous ignition, so hang the cloth outdoors to allow to dry.


US Fire Administration, After The Fire – Returning to Normal, FA-46 March 1987

Various Fire Service Web Sites