Fire is a scary thing if it happens to you.
Here is some advice about what to do if your house is damaged by fire, and what to do to make it habitable again, including contacting insurers, arranging alternative accommodation and the typical repair work that is needed after fire damages your home.
First and foremost, let’s hope that this never happens to you.
There are simple steps to take in order to minimise the risk to you and your family, of fire ever breaking out, but things can happen beyond your control, and when fates deals you a bad hand, you have to take steps to deal with it.
Also bear in mind this is a serious article, not an advert for anything, just imparting some knowledge to you which one day could save your life.
If you seek professional advice on this, pop down to your local fire station and ask the watch manager who will be only to happy to give advice and provide fire prevention information, including the fitting of smoke alarms. There are also fire prevention companies who can offer you advice.
What to do when you spot fire in the home.
But seriously, if you spot fire happening in your house, the first thing you should do is get everyone out and at a safe distance away from the building. Don’t be tempted to gather up personal possessions, these can generally be replaced, lives cannot.
Many people make a snap decision as to whether they should attempt to put the fire out themselves, but it depends on what sort of fire we are talking about, how large the fire, how much smoke etc.
If you stay behind to try and tackle the fire, you can quickly become overcome by smoke, and when fire is discovered, many people panic, obviously, and don’t think straight, so unless you have a ready practised fire drill at home, and you have the correct fire blanket or extinguisher for small fires, it really is best to get out and call the fire brigade.
Always think of yourself and your family before anything else.
What can cause a house fire?
There are many things that can start a fire, some accidental and some through sheer carelessness so here is a list of we thought were probably the most common causes of house fires.
- Cooking oil catching fire. Cooking oil gets extremely hot and just one splash of oil onto a naked gas flame can ignite the pot. This can also be caused by water accidentally being spilt or dripped into the hot fat.
- Heaters or open fires. Open fires can spit out sparks which can then ignite furnishings. A badly maintained chimney can also cause the house to quickly fill with smoke. Flammable things on or near hot radiators can also cause fires.
- Discarded cigarettes. Of course its best not to smoke at all, but if you do, always use an ashtray and make sure the fag is completely out before you walk away. Why not give up smoking indoors and making the place stink, go into the garden!
- Faulty electrical equipment. Always have electrical items tested, especially if you buy 2nd hand and never overload a socket with loads of extensions plugs.
- Candles. Whilst they may be romantic, a candle can easily fall over or set light to the curtains. Never leave a candle in a room unattended and always keep them away from kids. Keep a candle on a firm and level base, and away from windows and soft furnishings.
- Children playing with fire. Kids are naturally curious and then need to be told in no uncertain terms to never play with fire, ever. Your local fire service and maybe the kids school should have some information about this, created in a way that kids can relate to. Keep all sources of flame away from children, including matches and cigarette lighters.
The above are just six ways that a fire can start and if you re-read them, can you imagine how easy a scenario like that can happen?
What damage does fire do to a house?
Fire is a destructive and powerful force and in ideal conditions, it can spread rapidly, consuming everything in its path. Depending on the intensity of the fire, and how long it takes before it is put out, your home can suffer, best case scenario, a bit of scorching and smoke damage which requires a deep clean of the house contents and probably redecoration, although sometimes the smell of the smoke can take years to fade.
The worst case scenario, in a major house fire is the loss of more or less all contents, which of course can be highly upsetting, but also anything wooden will also be destroyed.
At first you may think that this can be replaced and I’m talking about tables and other wooden items, but no. Remember a major part of your home is made with wood, in fact some homes are built around a wooden frame.
Notwithstanding that, your floorboards and the joists that hold the floors up, are wood, your doors are wood and of course the rafters and joists that hold up your roof, are wooden too, so any major fire can sometimes result in the whole house being destroyed.
Carpets and curtains will go up in flames, as will any important paperwork, family photo albums and any cash stored around the house so if you are that paranoid, it is best to keep them in a safe place away from the house!
It is worth noting at this point, always make sure your home insurance is valid and covers fire, including payments for finding temporary accommodation.
Also bear in mind that your house will also suffer from water damage from the fire Engine and that must also be taken into account when planning any repairs.
Fire will also shatter windows with the heat and melt or buckle pipes, doors, cladding and windows made from UPVC. If you live in an older house, parts of which may contain harmful ingredients such as leads (in old paint) and also asbestos (in tiles and insulation) so be aware of this.
If the exterior of your house has render on it, then this could also crack with the heat and would ideally need to be completely replaced.
What to do after the fire has been put out.
After anything terrible like this happens, you must wait for the fire manager or Marshall to tell you it is out before you attempt to re enter the house and they will advise you if it is safe to do so or not, but be prepared to be upset upon walking back inside.
If the home cannot be lived in until repaired, you may need to get a company to board up the windows and secure the home while you are not there, and your insurance company should be able to recommend one.
Someone professional needs to go into the property to assess its structural condition and will advise yon if it is safe to enter. The worst case is the house has to be demolished and rebuilt.
You should contact your insurance company as a matter of urgency and they will help you in making your claim and advise you on obtaining emergency repair work and also locate a contractor who will carry out the work.
The work needed will depend on the severity of the damage caused.
The work may be just cleaning and getting rid of the damaged items in the home if the fire was localised to one room, although the entire house with have the burnt stench so cleaning may be needed to the whole place.
Repairs would include replacing damaged furniture, maybe even new windows, and of course a whole lot of redecoration too.
Bad fires often require the house to be gutted and rebuilt including all floors and ceilings, or maybe even the roof too.
After a fire, work with your insurer to create a list or plan of all the work needed to get your home back to normal.
How to make sure it never happens again.
If you have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of a house fire, you will by this time be very aware what caused it and I assure you, unless you are stupid or have a death wish, I guarantee that you will make sure that it never happens again.
Make sure you do a fire drill or fire prevention plan, just to be on the safe side, so if it ever happens, and we hope not, if you have a plan, you will know what steps to take in the event if fire breaking out.
If you want more advice about fire prevention, talk to your local fire brigade who will be only to happy to offer advice to you.
If you ever suspect a fire, always dial 999 (UK) or for our American readers, it’s of course, 911.