A home or business fire can leave you reeling in shock and overwhelm. While the main priority is ensuring everyone is safe, you’ll also want to salvage your cherished possessions and valuables in the aftermath. The average structural fire can cause over $28,000 in damage, the National Fire Protection Association estimates—but with quick action, you can help mitigate those losses. Here’s how to streamline the restoration process in your home or business and start rebuilding a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
Understanding the Restoration Process
Restoration after a fire is a manifold process, so it’s crucial to be proactive to minimize any further damage from smoke, soot, water, or debris. Check out this rundown of the four basic steps to recover your possessions once all the flames subside:
Assessment and Prioritization
Start by evaluating the extent of your home or business’s post-fire damage. Identify which areas are salvageable, then prioritize the items to restore based on their sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, photographs, or critical documents. These should take precedence over other less meaningful things that you can gradually replace over time.
Soot and Smoke Removal
Soot or smoke residue can quickly permeate surfaces and cause more damage if left to seep into those pores and crevices. Air out the interior by opening windows or turning on fans to promote ventilation and clear out any odors. Then, hire professional cleaners specializing in fire restoration to eliminate the harmful residue.
Water Damage Mitigation
Fires usually extinguish with water—although necessary, it can also lead to potential water damage. Therefore, it’s essential to swiftly resolve water-related issues to prevent mold growth, corrosion, and other structural problems. Use a dehumidifier and fans to dry out all the impacted areas, then remove wet items and ventilate your entire space to draw out any remaining moisture from the walls, ceiling, floors, or upholstery.
Item-Specific Cleaning and Restoration
Different materials require specific cleaning methods. Enlist a professional remediation service to clean items made of wood, fabric, metal, or electronics. When it comes to clothing and linens, launder these items with specialized cleaning solvents to eliminate smoke odors. Delicate clothes, linens, and upholstery might require professional dry cleaning.
4 Action Steps to Restore Your Belongings
Now that you know the general fire restoration process, let’s dive into some practical ways to navigate these steps and safeguard your valuables with minimal stress. According to the latest projections, about 486,500 structural fires take place in the U.S. each year, but with the right deliberate actions, you can recover what matters most:
Document All the Damage for Insurance Claims
Before you start the restoration, thoroughly record the extent of your fire damage for insurance claims. As soon as it’s safe to re-enter your home or business, walk around the premises and take photographs or videos, then create an inventory of all items harmed in the fire (including their approximate value) and submit this documentation to the insurance provider. Maintaining a comprehensive record will facilitate a smoother claims process and ensure you receive maximum compensation to ease the financial burden of recovery.
Consult with a Professional Restoration Service
While you may try to save money and tackle the restoration yourself, this isn’t a smart idea in the long run. Not only is the aftermath of a fire emotionally traumatic, but it’s also a logistical ordeal, so any attempts to manage it alone will compound your stress and inconvenience.
Meanwhile, enlisting the services of experienced restoration technicians will ensure this job is done correctly the first time with the utmost precision and care. A remediation company can fast-track your road back to normalcy, from the initial assessment to the soot and smoke removal to the deep cleaning and final repairs.
Evaluate Which Possessions Are Salvageable
Consult with those same professionals to determine how feasible it is to salvage your affected items. With the right expertise and specialized cleaning methods, some valuables (e.g., family photos, birth certificates, etc.) can return to their pre-fire condition. Once you know which possessions are salvageable, prioritize the main items you want to restore based on factors like rarity, importance, or sentimental value. From there, it also becomes easier to distinguish which items make more sense to replace later.
Acknowledge When to Let Go of Certain Items
Despite even the most skilled efforts, specific items might be beyond repair. Knowing when to release those possessions can be crucial for your safety and emotional well-being. For instance, things that pose health risks—such as those contaminated with smoke, soot, mold, or other toxins—or have structural issues are not worth trying to restore. As painful as this can feel, acknowledge when it’s time to find a new replacement instead of continuing to hold onto something that’s not recoverable.
Be Proactive to Minimize the Damage After a Fire
The aftermath of a fire can be a logistically and emotionally draining experience. However, successful fire restoration is within reach with these swift, proactive measures. Understanding the process and following these steps allows you to navigate a home or business recovery with more resilience and renewed hope. But of course, safety is still the primary concern, so utilizing a professional remediation service will ensure that your most cherished possessions survive while minimizing the risk of additional harm.