AFTER A fire
The First 24 Hours - Securing Yourself and the Site
Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, to help with your immediate needs, such as:
- Temporary housing
- Other essential items
Contact your insurance agent/company.
- Do not enter the damaged site. Fires can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains.
- Normally, the fire department will see that utilities (water, electricity and natural gas) are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. Do not attempt to turn on utilities yourself.
- Watch for structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse.
- Food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke, soot and water should not be consumed.
Leaving your home
- Contact your local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
- In some cases it may be necessary to board up openings to discourage trespassers.
- Beginning immediately, save receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your income taxes.
If it is safe to do so, try to locate the following items:
- Identification, such as driver's licenses and Social Security cards
- Insurance information
- Medication information
- Eyeglasses, hearing aids or other prosthetic devices
- Valuables, such as credit cards, bank books, cash and jewelry
- Mortgage company (also inform them of the fire)
- Family and friends
- Child's school
- Post office
- Delivery services
- Fire and police departments (for fire or police report)
- Utility companies
A professional fire and water damage restoration business may be your best choice for cleaning and restoring your personal belongings. The following items may require special treatment:
- Cooking utensils
- Rugs and carpets
- Leather and books
- Locks and hinges
- Walls, floors and furniture
- Wood furniture
- Electrical appliances**
Visit www.USFA.gov to obtain a more comprehensive list of cleaning options.
Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If half or more of a bill is still intact, you can take the remainder to your regional federal reserve bank for replacement. Ask your bank for the nearest one. Or you can mail the burned or torn money by "registered mail, return receipt requested" to
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Office of Currency Standards
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013
Mutilated or melted coins
Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to your regional federal reserve bank or mailed by "registered mail, return receipt requested" to:
P.O. Box 400
Philadelphia, PA 19105
U.S. savings bonds
If your U.S. savings bonds have been destroyed or mutilated, you must obtain Department of Treasury Form PD F 1048 (I) from your bank or www.ustreas.gov and mail to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of the Public Debt
Savings Bonds Operations
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328
Check with an accountant, tax consultant, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people with limited finances after a fire loss.