After the Fire
Recovering from a fire can be a physically and mentally draining process. Many things need to be done. Here is some helpful information to get you started on your way. If any more assistance is needed, feel free to contact us at 314-432-5570.
• First 24 Hours – Securing Yourself and the Site
• After The Fire Checklist
• Fire District Operations
• Insurance Information
• Replacing Documents & Records
• Salvage Hints
• Emergency Numbers
When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Often, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact.
The Creve Coeur Fire Protection District along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA), have gathered the following information to assist you in this time of need. Action on some of the suggestions will need to be taken immediately. Some actions may be needed in the future while others will be on-going. The purpose of this information is to give you the assistance needed to assist you as you begin rebuilding your life.
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 until approval is obtained from the Fire District.
• Fires can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. If you suspect the fire has rekindled, please call 911 to report the situation.
• Normally, the Fire District will see that utilities (water, electricity and natural gas) are either safe to use or disconnected before they leave the site. Do not attempt to reconnect the utilities yourself.
• Be watchful 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. Your insurance company may be able to provide or suggest specially trained companies for this work.
• 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 tax.
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
There are many people/entities that should be notified of your relocation, including:
• your insurance agent/company
• your mortgage company (also inform them of the fire)
• your family and friends
• your employer
• your child’s school
• your post office
• any delivery services
• your fire and police departments
• your utility companies
Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damages are taken into consideration in developing your insurance claim. If you are considering contracting for inventory or repair services, discuss your plans with your insurance agent/company first.
After The Fire Checklist
The following checklist serves as a quick reference and guide for you to follow after a fire strikes:
• Contact your local disaster relief service, such as The Red Cross, if you need temporary housing, food and medicines.
• If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damage restoration companies. If you are not insured, try contacting private organizations for aid and assistance.
• Check with the Fire District to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
• The Fire District should see that utilities are either safe to use or are disconnected before they leave the site. DO NOT attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
• Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. You may also want to notify your insurance company before throwing anything away.
• Try to locate valuable documents and records. Refer to information on contacts and the replacement process inside this brochure.
• If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
• Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on income tax.
• Notify your mortgage company of the fire.
• Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.
Fire District Operations
After the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District has extinguished the fire, it attempts to clean up some of the debris and excess water. Here are a few common questions you may have about the firefighting operations:
• Why are windows broken or holes cut in the roof?
As a fire burns, it moves upward and outward. Breaking windows and/or cutting holes in the roof (called ventilation) stops that damaging outward movement and enables firefighters to fight the fire more effectively, resulting in less damage to the structure.
• Why are holes cut in the walls, floors and ceilings?
This is done so the Fire District is absolutely sure the fire is completely out, and that no fire exists inside the walls or hidden places. Re-ignition can occur if the fire is not completely extinguished. Damage may appear unnecessary, however without the use of these fire fighting techniques, the building could suffer total destruction by fire.
• Why are the utilities to my house turned off?
During the course of firefighting operations, it may have been necessary to disconnect or shut off utility services as a safety precaution or to prevent further damage to the structure and its contents. DO NOT attempt to restore the utilities yourself. You will need to contact each utility affected to have service re-established.
• Give notice of the loss to the insurance company or the insurer’s agent/company.
• Ask the insurance company what to do about the immediate needs of the dwelling, such as covering doors, windows, and other exposed areas, and pumping out water.
• Ask your insurance agent/company what actions are required of you. Some policyholders may be required to make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description and how much you paid for the items.
Your recovery from a fire loss may be based upon your own resources and help from your community. Private organizations that may be sources of aid or information:
• American Red Cross
• Salvation Army
• Religious organizations
• Department of Social Services
• Civic organizations
• State or municipal emergency services office
• Non-profit crisis counseling centers
Replacing Documents & Records
Here is a check list of documents you will need to replace if they have been destroyed, and who to contact for information on the replacement process:
Replacement Documents and Contact Information
Driver’s license, Auto registration - Department of Revenue
Bank books (checking, savings, etc.) - Your bank, as soon as possible
Insurance policies - Your insurance agent
Military discharge papers - Local Department of Veterans Affairs
Passports - Local passport service
Birth, death and marriage certificates - Bureau of Records in the appropriate state
Divorce papers - Circuit court where decree was issued
Social Security or Medicare cards - Local Social Security office
Credit cards - The issuing companies, as soon as possible
Titles to deeds - Records department of the locality in which the property is located
Stocks and bonds - Issuing company or your broker
Wills - Your lawyer
Medical records - Your doctor
Warranties - Issuing company
Income tax records - The IRS Center where filed or your accountant
Citizenship papers - U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
Prepaid burial contract - Issuing company
Animal registration papers - Your veterinarian, County Health Department or Society of registry
Mortgage papers - Lending institution
Money Replacement – 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 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 - 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
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 26106-1
Tax Information – Check with an accountant, tax consultant, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people with limited finances after a fire loss.
The following information can be used to help limit the amount of damage that may occur to your possessions and belongings due to water, smoke, heat or other types of damage:
An excellent in-depth source of information to help with salvage is the University of Missouri Extension Guide – After the Fire is Out: Cleaning Household Textiles and Clothing
Additional information you may find helpful:
Clothing – Smoke odor and soot sometimes can be washed from clothing. The following formula often will work for clothing that can be bleached:
4-6 tbsp. of Tri-Sodium Phosphate
1 cup Lysol or any household chlorine bleach
1 gallon warm water
Mix well, add clothes, and rinse with clear water and dry well.
Be aware that Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used as a cleaning agent. It should be used with care and stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using it. Read the label carefully. To remove mildew, wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water. Then rinse and dry in sun. If the stain has not disappeared, use lemon juice and salt, or a diluted solution of household chlorine bleach.
Cooking Utensils – Your pots, pans, flatware, etc., should be washed with soapy water, rinsed and then polished with a fine-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.
Electrical Appliances – Appliances that have been exposed to water or steam should not be used until you have a service representative check them. This is especially true of electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the lubricant from some moving parts. If the fire department turned off your gas or power during the fire, call the electric or gas company to restore these services – DO NOT TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF.
Food – Wash your canned goods in detergent and water. Do the same for food in jars. If labels come off, be sure you mark the contents on the can or jar with a grease pencil. Do not use canned goods when cans have bulged or are dented or rusted.
If your home freezer has stopped running, you still can save the frozen food. Keep the freezer closed. Your freezer has enough insulation to keep food frozen for at least one day – perhaps for as many as two or three days. Move your food to a neighbor’s freezer or a rented locker. Wrap the frozen food in newspapers and blankets or use insulated boxes. Do not re-freeze food that has thawed.
To remove odor from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water. Some baking soda in an open container or a piece of charcoal can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.
Flooring and Rugs – When water gets underneath linoleum/rolled flooring, it can cause odors and warp the wood floor. If this happens, remove the entire sheet. If the linoleum is brittle, a heat lamp will soften it so it can be rolled up without breaking. If carefully removed, it can be re-cemented after the floor has completely dried. Small blisters in linoleum can be punctured with a nail and re-cemented if you are careful. Dilute regular linoleum paste thin enough to go through a hand syringe and shoot adhesive through the nail hole. Weigh down the linoleum with bricks or boards. It usually is possible to cement loose tiles of any type. Wait until the floor is completely dry before beginning.
Rugs and carpets also should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw rugs then can be cleaned by beating, sweeping or vacuuming, and then shampooing. Rugs should be dried as quickly as possible. Lay them flat, and expose them to a circulation of warm, dry air. A fan turned on the rugs will speed drying. Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry. Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the tufts can quickly rot a rug. For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or qualified carpet cleaning professional.
Mattresses and Pillows – Reconditioning an innerspring mattress at home is very difficult, if not impossible. Your mattress may be able to be renovated by a company that builds or repairs mattresses. If you must use your mattress temporarily, put it out into the sun to dry. Then cover it with rubber or plastic sheeting. It is almost impossible to get smoke odor out of pillows. The feathers and foam retain the odor.
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 dried away from heat and sun. When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. You can use steel wool or a suede brush on suede. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun.
Wet books must be taken care of as soon as possible. The best method to save wet books is to freeze them in a vacuum freezer. This special freezer will remove the moisture without damaging the pages.
If there will be a delay in locating such a freezer, place them in a normal freezer until a vacuum freezer can be located.
Locks and Hinges – Locks (especially iron locks) should be taken apart, wiped with kerosene and oiled. If locks cannot be removed, squirt WD40 oil through a bolt opening or keyhole, and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges also should be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
Walls and Furniture – To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, mix together:
4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
1 cup Lysol or any chloride bleach
1 gallon warm water
Wear rubber gloves when cleaning. After washing the article, rinse with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.
Walls may be washed down while wet. Use a mild soap or detergent. Wash a small area at one time, working from the floor up. Then rinse the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. Do not repaint until the walls and ceilings are completely dry.
Wallpaper also can be repaired. Use a commercial paste to repaste loose edges or sections. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be washed like an ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from bottom to top to prevent streaking.
Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist out of shape. Clear off the mud and dirt by scrubbing with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution. You can also rub the wood surface with a 4/0 steel wool pad dipped in liquid polishing wax, wipe with a soft cloth and then buff. Remove the drawers and let them dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking when you replace them. Wet wood can decay and mold, so allow it to dry thoroughly. Open doors and windows for good ventilation. Turn on your furnace or air conditioner, if necessary. If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of borax dissolved in hot water. To remove white spots or film, rub the wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of a half-cup of household ammonia and a half-cup of water. Wipe dry and polish with wax, or rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of a half-cup turpentine and a half-cup of linseed oil. Be careful because turpentine is combustible.
Please fill this area in with your local phone numbers and keep copies at locations other than your home:
Medical policy number
Home policy number
Auto policy number
American Red Cross