Where to Start Cleaning After a House Fire

A minor or major house fire brings with it a million different thoughts, including, “where do I start cleaning after this house fire?”

The steps back to normalcy are different for everyone and depend on the extent of the fire damage and home insurance company directions. Obviously, the very first step after a home fire is to make sure everyone is safe. Once everyone’s health is checked and cleared, it’s important to move everyone to a safe place (i.e. a relative or friend’s home, hotel, etc.) because the home may not be safe for occupancy after a fire.

Once everyone in the household is safe, it’s important to contact your home insurance company as soon as possible. The company can give directions for lodging and future contacts. Beyond that call, these cleaning tips can start the recovery process and get a home from fire-damaged to normal (or better than normal).  

House Fire Cleaning Tips

Don’t clean until you’ve taken pictures.

First of all, NEVER enter a home until is safe to do so and never do any clean-up work before taking pictures. Once the home is cleared for entry, every aspect of the fire damage should be documented, including interior and exterior damage, damage inside walls, damaged items, water damage (from rain or water and retardants used to extinguish the fire) and soot and smoke damage. If the damage is extensive, take pictures with long sleeves, pants, and protective gear (i.e. goggles, hard hat, etc.)

Be organized.

It’s VERY important to be as organized as possible when cleaning up after a fire. Homeowners should keep all paperwork related to the fire, including reports, invoices, and receipts. The original homeowner’s insurance policy should be included in the file. If the policy was damaged or destroyed in the fire, contact the insurance company for a copy. Before tossing any items, make a list of all items that were damaged in the fire, including jewelry, furniture, and all household goods.

Be careful about entering and cleaning the fire-damaged area.

A fire leaves behind a path of destruction that can be unhealthy for occupants and cleaners—unless proper precautions are used. Ash, for example, can irritate skin and cause respiratory issues. Even cleaners can be hazardous. If the damage is extensive, the power and water to the home should be shut off if it is not already. Be careful around gas lines, and always stop work if the smell of gas is present. Contact the utility company IMMEDIATELY if you smell gas.

Contact the professionals.

DIYers, use these home fire clean-up tips from the American Red Cross. Otherwise, contact a professional fire clean-up company with experience cleaning up after a disaster. Ask the company how long they have been in business, if they are available for an evaluation, and whether they have worked with insurance companies in the past. The company can come in and evaluate the damage and initiate the clean-up process—and get your family and home on the road back to normal.

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