A house fire can be a devastating and traumatic experience. You are not only facing the loss of a home and valuable possessions, but you have to cope with all manner of secondary damage. There is the constant smell of smoke and walls, floors and furnishings that survived the fire may be dripping wet from the water and chemicals used by fire fighters to extinguish the flames.
The first thing you must do is to call your insurance company or agent. Most insurance companies have 24-hour emergency lines. The company will send a loss adjuster to inspect the damage and assess your claim. So you can’t really move anything until this inspection.
Check with the local fire brigade about the structural safety of your home. If many structural elements have been damaged, you may not be able to return there, even to assess losses. In this case, it would be wise to contact your mortgage provider. Fire damage will reduce the value of the property and you may be able to renegotiate the size of your mortgage payments.
All properties need to be secured and it is your responsibility to ensure this. When speaking with the fire brigade and your insurance provider, ask them to recommend a recognised fire damage restoration contractor. Fire restoration standards are always subject to revision, so you must take the advice of both fire fighters and insurers about the firm you choose.
The contractor will be able to work together with the fire fighters on securing your home even if there has been some serious structural damage. During winter the contractor probably will have to drain plumbing to avoid any risk of pipe bursts. Certainly, never try to access a fire damaged home on your own, even if the fire brigade is clear that there has been no structural damage. Make sure when you first take a look at the damage that it is with a fire fighter, loss adjuster or contractor.
The restoration contractor will need clear guidance about the type of materials and chemicals they need to use when cleaning up smoke and fire damage. If you or anyone else in the family is sensitive to certain chemicals or suffers from asthma, the contractor must be informed so that they can take special precautions. Toxic anti-fungal sprays and other chemical cleaners are not used as widely today as before.
The drying of a house and its contents after a fire is a very skilled job. The contractor has to use special techniques that suit both the climate and the season. Mould growth has to be prevented, so dispose of all fabrics where mould may grow. Inspect the house carefully to ensure that it is completely dry especially around inner walls. Mould will return if the house has not dried properly.