If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911. For our emergency fire damage restoration services, contact us at (877) 468-3566.
Wildfires across the Western U.S. have increased by more than 100% since the 1980s, and some studies show that could increase another 78% by 2050 if highly aggressive environmental actions are not taken. Anyone living in fire-prone regions likely keeps a close eye on digital fire maps and might even have evacuation plans at the ready. Even if you are prepared, damage from wildfires can be unexpectedly devastating. On top of potential wildfire damage, there are always many other causes of building fires. From electrical issues to kitchen fires and everything in between, there are dozens of ways for a house fire to start. Fortunately, because house fires are relatively uncommon with today’s safety standards and ever-growing awareness, those who do experience fire damage might not know the right steps forward. ServiceMaster Recovery by C2C Restoration offers comprehensive services for residential and commercial fire damage restoration in Los Angeles County, CA and the surrounding regions. If you’ve experienced fire damage of any kind, our expert technicians will restore your building and belongings to pre-disaster conditions.
Compared to the rest of the U.S., western homes have a higher risk of fire damage. This is largely due to wildfires in arid wooded areas or grasslands, but also because the humidity level is generally lower year-round, effectively drying out all building materials. If you’ve experienced a fire in your home, there are several steps you need to take to start a quick, effective recovery.
After the firefighters leave, when everyone is safely out of the dangerous areas and given any medical attention needed, you can start to take action to regain control of the situation.
- Find a safe haven. You will most likely not be able to stay in your damaged home until restorations are finished. Finding a safe place for you, your family, and your pets to stay is your number one concern after a fire. If you can’t stay with family or friends, there are hotels, motels, and even Airbnb rentals that offer extended stays. Extended Stay America is a large database for finding long-term or specialty stay resources anywhere in the U.S. Disaster relief programs like the Red Cross, United Way, and the California Community Foundation also offer shelter, food, clean water, and support for families. Many of these programs additionally offer emotional safe havens for grieving families, providing counseling, support groups, and overall community help.
- Contact your insurance agency. You’ve been paying home insurance all this time for a reason. Restoration from a disaster like a house fire can often be completely covered by your insurance policy. Reach out to your insurance agents to get started on a claim. Filing an immediate claim will get you quick access to “loss of use” funds, which typically cover temporary living expenses, transportation, groceries, laundry, and other emergency costs after a fire. Keep a detailed record and all receipts from purchases made with these advance claim funds. They will likely be important for determining the rest of the claim details later. If you’re working with a restoration company like ServiceMaster Recovery by C2C Restoration, starting a claim right away will help us work more directly with your insurance agency and get repairs done faster.
- Secure your home. If you aren’t working with a restoration provider yet, it’s important to take action to seal your home from weather, protect it from break-ins, and keep out wild animals. (If you are a tenant in a rental, contact your landlord to notify them of the fire and they should provide building security for you.) Boarding up windows with wood or tarping, ensuring entries can be locked, removing food waste, and even setting up perimeter warnings can all be effective in securing your home until the restoration process can start. If you are able, checking on your home every few days is a good idea. The fire department will file an incident report to the city, and your insurance agency will follow up with any details and concerns relevant to your claim.
- Inventory your belongings. Your insurance claim will likely cover your possessions with a replacement-cost coverage policy. To get the most out of replacement funds, put together a detailed inventory of all items that were damaged in the fire. This includes listing the cash value at the time of purchase, the date of purchase, and a description of each item. Replacement-cost policies are critical for replacing the lost value of large appliances, furniture, jewelry, entertainment systems, interior decor, art, and other high-cost valuables.
- Obtain the fire report. Whenever the fire department files an incident, a fire report goes along with it. These reports detail the cause of the fire, most affected areas of the building, the resulting structural integrity of the building, people or pets harmed in the fire, reports of any emergency medical treatment, condition of household utilities, any spread of fire beyond your property, and more. They are extremely helpful, and often required, for your insurance agency to work through parts of your claim.
- Organize your finances. While immediate loss of use funds and other upcoming insurance claims coverage will give you a boost to support your family after a fire, keep in mind you’re still responsible for your other usual expenses. This includes - unless you have paid it off prior to the fire - your mortgage payments. You will also still have to make payments on cars, credit cards, or debit cards, even if they were damaged by the fire. Reach out to your creditors. They might offer leniency for families that have experienced something as terrible as a house fire, such as waiving late fees and allowing delayed payments. If you are employed, talk to your HR department or your boss. Many employers will give paid time off for staff members dealing with a post-disaster process, and some companies even offer disaster support systems for employees facing recovery.
- Replace documents. Important documents and records are often lost in house fires. As soon as you're able, start the process of replacing those through the Secretary of State, district court, insurance providers, federal government, creditors, and other resources. Some important documents that commonly need to be replaced after a fire include driver’s licenses, car registrations, insurance proofs and policies, titles/deeds, passports, birth, marriage, and death certificates, social security cards, medical records, wills, tax records, divorce papers, military records, warranties, and citizenship papers. Paper money can also be replaced through the Federal Reserve Bank, but at least half of each bill must be intact. Otherwise, fire damaged bills can be sent to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It’s also helpful to have the USPS hold your mail temporarily or set up a forwarding address.
- Take care of your pets. If you have pets rescued from the fire, it’s important to get them to a vet for a checkup as soon as possible. Even if your pets appear healthy, exposure to smoke, soot, and flames often has internal effects. Smoke damage to animal lungs can be devastating without medical intervention, but vets can often provide therapeutic care to recovering pets. Additionally, burns and other injuries can be hidden by fur. Without the right care, those injuries could lead to infection and even death. The national Pet Poison Helpline is available 24/7 for emergency calls. They also provide information on symptoms of smoke poisoning and fire injury to look out for. PriVET Pet Care 911 VETS® is another resource for finding local emergency veterinary clinics near you. PriVET™ is an LA and Orange County area provider of emergency vet care, including transportation, house calls, and discounts for police, fire, and military personnel, neighbors, and senior citizens.
- Take care of the emotional and mental impacts on your family. Physical injuries and other bodily impacts of a fire are typically taken care of at the scene with EMS care and transportation to the nearest ER when conditions are critical. The long-term effects of smoke inhalation are also addressed. However, the emotional and mental health impact of a traumatic event like a house fire can sometimes get ignored. Disaster support providers often give mental health care and counseling for all family members after a fire. For children especially, the aftermath of a house fire can be a very difficult time. There are many symptoms that come from coping after a house fire. The trauma of a disaster often comes out in the form of reliving the event, frequent headaches, crying, fatigue, insomnia, digestion issues, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, confusion, loss of appetite, and a sense of helplessness. FEMA and the Red Cross offer several programs for families with children coping after a disaster, and they provide several other resources for adults, senior citizens, and disabled people.
These steps are all huge hurdles, but creating checklists, processing things as you come to them, and keeping in mind you can always ask for support will help you work through this difficult time. For long-term recovery, the best step you can take is get the help of a professional, experienced company for fire damage restoration.
There are many ways that fire damage is insidious and detrimental in unexpected ways. Our staff of skilled restoration technicians has the tools and training needed to remediate soot and smoke damage, pack out and salvage your belongings, reverse water damage from fire hoses, and reconstruct your home completely.
To learn more about our 24/7/365 services for fire damage restoration in Los Angeles County, CA and what you can do to prevent fires in your building, contact ServiceMaster Recovery by C2C Restoration at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our fast response LA line: (323) 851-5543. For emergencies, contact us at (877) 468-3566.