What do I do after a house or business fire? Safety first! Do not enter a damaged home or business unless the Fire Department says it is safe to go inside. Fires can start again even if they appear to be out (this is why the firemen may have cut holes in your walls—to check for unseen fires still burning).

Watch for damage caused by the fire.  Roofs and floors may be damaged and could fall down. If there are man-made holes in your roof, and your windows are broken, it is likely that the fire department did this for ventilation in helping put out the fire. The fire department will make sure that the utility services (water, electricity, and gas) are safe to use.  If they are not safe, firefighters will disconnect them before they leave the site.  Do not try to turn them back on yourself.
FEMA provides a very informative and helpful pamphlet which provides you with a step by step process to return your life to normalcy after a house fire. This pamphlet and website include a list of documents you should obtain, and a checklist of things you should do.   After a Home Fire Checklist (from FEMA Website)

  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the Red Cross. They will help you find a place to stay for awhile and find food, medicines, and other important things.
  • If you have insurance, contact your insurance company. Ask what you should do to keep your home safe until it is repaired. Find out how they want you to make a list of things that were lost or damaged in the fire. Ask who you should talk to about cleaning up the mess. If you are not insured, try contacting community groups for aid and assistance.
  • Check with the fire department to make sure your home is safe to enter. Be very careful when you go inside. Floors and walls may not be as safe as they look.
  • The fire department will tell you if your utilities (water, electricity, and gas) are safe to use. If not, they will shut these off before they leave. DO NOT try to turn them back on by yourself. This could be very dangerous.
  • Contact your landlord or mortgage company about the fire.
  • Try to find valuable documents and records. See the information in this brochure about how to get new copies if you need them.
  • If you leave your home, call the local police department to let them know the site will be vacant.
  • Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and to prove any losses claimed on your income tax.
  • Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.