What to Do After a Wildfire Burns Your House: 24 Point Checklist
After the wildfires in California and other states, many homeowners are now left to pick up the pieces, move on from an ugly situation, and rebuild their lives. Do you know what to do when your house burns down? The damage from a wildfire or even a small house fire can be overwhelming. The hardest part is knowing where to begin. FEMA, Ready.gov, and other experts recommend having a checklist for what to do after a house fire:
1. Before trying to return home, check with authorities to make sure the area is safe.
2. Remain cautious and alert when entering burned areas. Hot spots or embers could flare up again without warning.
3. Watch out for damaged areas of roofs and floors, which could collapse.
4. Check every room in your house for sparks, smoke, or embers. Be sure to check the garage, roof, attic, and crawlspace.
5. If you see or smell smoke or flames, leave immediately.
6. Do not turn on utility services (water, electricity, or gas) if firefighters have turned them off or disconnected them.
7. Contact your insurance company to find out what kinds of documentation they need and what they can do for you.
8. Photograph all of the damage before you begin your house fire clean up. You may need these photos for insurance purposes.
9. When talking to fire cleaning and restoration services, get all estimates in writing. Ask your insurer whether they will pay to clean up and repair your home.
10. When cleaning up after a fire, wet down debris as much as possible to minimize breathing soot particles.
11. Wear a dust mask or air-purifying respirator.
12. Carefully clean anything you want to save, and dry it out to prevent mold.
13. Throw away all food and beverages that were near flames, smoke, soot, or any water used to put out the fire.
14. Pump out any standing water to minimize further damage.
15. If you suspect that your water supply has been contaminated, do not use it to wash your hands, prepare food, make ice or baby formula, brush your teeth, or wash dishes. Use bottled water instead.
16. Ask the fire department or the fire marshal for a copy of the fire report.
17. Contact your mortgage lender and inform them about the fire.
18. Save all of your receipts. You may need them later to prove losses to your insurance, or claim losses on your tax return.
19. Locate your valuable documents and records. If any were destroyed in the fire, replace them as soon as possible.
20. If you have cash or coins that were damaged in the fire, you may be able to have them replaced by a regional Federal Reserve Bank. Check with your local bank to learn more.
21. Ask your accountant to find out if there are special benefits available from the IRS regarding your fire loss.
22. Use one notebook or device to track all of the vital information about the fire, including:
- Date, time, and location of the fire
- VIN numbers of any vehicles destroyed
- Contact information of the responding fire department
- File incident report number issued by the fire department
- Contact information of the fire marshal or fire investigator
- Contact information of your insurance company
- Insurance policy number and claim number
23. Even if you don’t have wildfire insurance, you may still be able to get help from disaster relief services. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and FEMA may provide you with emergency housing, food, medicine, and clothing.
24. If you need more help, also try:
- The Salvation Army
- Community groups
- Local churches
- Local agencies, including the public health department
- State or local emergency services
Should You Rebuild or Sell a Fire-Damaged Home?
After your family is safe and you have recovered your belongings that you are able to save, you’ll need to make a decision. You can either rebuild your home or sell it and free up cash for a new start. But selling a home damaged by fire isn’t easy.
We Buy Ugly Houses® can help. If your house has been damaged or destroyed by fire, contact us today. We can pay cash for houses to help you move on from an ugly situation and get a fresh start.
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