House fire

It’s important that homeowners recognize what they need to do after their homes have been damaged by fire.

The notion that their homes could be damaged if not destroyed by fire is something many homeowners find unimaginable. But fires damage homes every day across the globe, which only underscores the importance of knowing how to respond should your home be engulfed in flames.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, local fire departments responded to an estimated 1.3 million fires in the United States in 2019. Fires also pose a threat in Canada, where the insurance provider SGI Canada reports that there are roughly 24,000 house fires each year.

Installing and maintaining fire alarms can help prevent house fires from producing tragic consequences. A well-practiced evacuation plan also can protect homeowners and their families in case of a fire, increasing the likelihood that anyone inside the home can promptly exit before suffering injury or even death. It’s also important that homeowners recognize what they need to do after their homes have been damaged by fire.

- Recognize that it’s still risky even after the fire is out. The U.S. Fire Administration notes that homes damaged by fire pose a threat even after flames have been extinguished. Soot and dirty water left behind may contain things that can make people sick. Only enter a home after the local fire department has deemed it safe to do so. Before entering the home, don personal protective equipment like masks, goggles and gloves to avoid getting sick from any contaminants lingering in the home.

- Contact your insurance company. The USFA notes that some companies specialize in cleaning and restoring personal items damaged by fires, and your insurance company can be a great resource when looking for such firms. Insurance companies also will advise homeowners on what they need to do in the immediate aftermath of the fire, including how to begin the claims process.

- Contact a disaster relief service. Disaster relief services like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army can help homeowners find food, clothing, medicine, and even lodging.

- Find shelter for pets. The USFA advises pet owners affected by house fires to leave their pets with family members, friends or veterinarians until the house has been completely cleaned. Doing so ensures pets won’t be exposed to potentially harmful contaminants or residue that can put their lives in jeopardy.

House fires happen every day, and knowing what to do in the aftermath of such fires can help homeowners get back on their feet as quickly as possible.