If you encounter a fire in your home, there are a few important rules to follow. Fire will spread very quickly through a house, especially an older house where the wood construction is very dry. Fire produces heat, smoke, and poisonous gases. Smoke is very dangerous, it reduces your vision (causing disorientation when trying to exit the house) and contains particles which cause extreme breathing problems. Many deaths occur each year from smoke inhalation. When on fire, poisonous gases are emitted from things such as a couch or even carpet. These gases can be deadly. Fire can produce temperatures near 1000 degrees in just a few minutes. One key thing to remember is that heat, smoke and poisonous gases will rise to the ceiling level and then begin to bank down. That is why you need to stay close to the floor when exiting the house. With these facts in mind you may consider the following:
Get everyone out of the house quickly (you may have only a few minutes). DO NOT try to retrieve valuables, money, pets, ect... before getting out. Remember these items are replaceable.
Go to another house or cell phone and call 911. Be sure to give YOUR address, full name, and be prepared to answer questions from the 911 dispatcher. Wait to meet the Fire Department and notify them you are the owner or contact person.
The fire department may break windows and cut a hole in the roof of your home. Due to the extreme heat, smoke and gases, certain tactics must be used to extinguish the fire. One tactic commonly used is called ventilation. It involves breaking windows and opening the roof in some cases. Ventilation allows the gases and smoke to exit the house, thus allowing the firefighters to safely enter the house. Ventilation also reduces fire spreading and smoke damage. Parts of walls and ceilings must be forcibly opened to check for fire. After the fire is out, the damage may appear unnecessary however, without the use of these fire fighting tactics, complete fire extinguishment would be extremely difficult.
If insured, contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
If you don't have insurance, here are some helpful ideas.
Vacuum all surfaces, (steam cleaning with shampoo works well) carpet may need to be replaced. It is very difficult to clean ash from carpets. The smoke smell is also hard to remove. Hardwood and tile type floors can usually be mopped and refinished.
Walls can be cleaned by wiping and scrubbing with cleaning solutions available at any hardware store. Once clean, allow to fully dry before painting. Use a primmer/sealer and paint for best results. Wallpapered areas usually can not be salvaged and will need to be replaced.
Change all furnace/air conditioner filters before using them. It is recommended that a heating/cooling company check the units for damage and clean duct work before using them.Cloth and Materials
Mattresses can be taken outside in the sun to be aired out if not damaged.
Pillows, stuffed animals, ect. will retain a smoke odor and will usually have to be replaced.
Clothes can be washed (in bleach if applicable) heavily and may be professionally cleaned.Removing Odors
Fire will leave a smoke odor that is hard to remove. Aside from cleaning everything in the house, room deodorizers can be installed to help absorb the odors. Mildew may occur and produce odors. Use chlorine bleach and warm water to remove.Medications and Food
All food and medications exposed to a fire and/or smoke should be thrown away.Securing Valuables
In the event of any fire, try to locate the following items after fire extinguishment:
These items should be taken with you if you can't secure your home and you must leave.Other Important Information Utilities
The Fire Department may have to disconnect some or all of your utilities for safety purposes. The most common is electric service. The utility company(s) for each will have to reconnect the service. Service will not always be restored the same day, depending on the amount of damage. The fire department will not re-connect services to your home.Support Services
Multiple emotions are common after a fire and should be monitored closely. Exercise and other stress relieving activities are helpful. The American Red Cross offers counseling if needed. They also will provide assistance for food, clothing, ect..
American Red Cross (304) 340-3650
Salvation Army (304) 343-4548