Fire Damage

About Fire Damage & Smoke Damage

Fire Damage

Over 365,00 fires occur annually and U.S. fire departments respond to a home fire every 86 second according to the National Fire Protection Association. Whether your fire is a small and contained stove fire or a major structure fire, you will need a fire damage restoration and repair professional to help you clean up and repair the fire damage. They will manage every step from cleaning up the damage from the actual fire to removing soot and smoke odor and any water or other damage from the firefighters

Many times these fires are preventable. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires. A home fire can be caused by many things. Your home can catch fire from misuse of appliances, faulty wiring, smoking materials that are not properly extinguished, candles, children, flammable liquids, or from lightning or even wildfires. 

Fires can happen to anyone at any time and can cause personal injury or death, as well as damage to your home that can range from minor smoke damage or soot damage to serious damage from flames, smoke, heat or even the chemicals and water used by firefighters to put the fire out.

Many items that survive the fire are still damaged or ruined by smoke or water. The fire department may need to break windows and cut holes in your roof to extinguish the fire. It is important to put safety first during a fire and after a fire. See our tips below. Protect yourself and your most precious assets and belongings with adequate insurance coverage.

What kind of damage can fires cause to your home and your family?

Different types of fires start and burn in different ways and affect our home in their own ways. All fires are fast, hot, dark and can be very dangerous. They can be devastatingly dangerous and cause death or serious injury so safety should always be the first concern. The damage to your home can range from minimal smoke damage to the complete destruction of your home. 

The damaging forces in addition to the flame are the high heat, the smoke damage and the water used to put out the fire. The fire department will sometimes need to make holes in roofs and walls to put the fire out or check for hidden burning. You can be left with structural damage, a compromised roof, broken windows, burnt out electrical systems, soggy and smoke damaged drywall, furniture and carpets, and the destruction of prized possessions and important papers and personal items. 

fire damage

What are common causes of home fires?

Some of the most common causes of fire at home are preventable. The leading cause of a home fire is cooking related. The number one cause is an oven or stove left unattended. People get distracted and leave something cooking. Do not ever walk away from something on the stove, particularly if it is simmering, boiling, broiling or frying and always use a timer to remind you that something is cooking. Beware potholders, wooden utensils, curtains or other things that can catch fire.

What to do if you have a fire

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) advised that in the case of a kitchen fire you should get out, being sure all are out of the house, and closing the door behind you to contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 immediately. Keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires, and for an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed. Keep yourself and family safe until the firefighters arrive

Another leading cause of home fires is heating equipment. Many home fires involve stationary or portable space heaters or failure to clean heating equipment such as chimneys or items ignited from wood stoves or fireplaces. Electrical hazards are also a leading cause of the fire, either from misuse, or faulty equipment. Smoking is, of course, another leading cause of serious fires, with 17,200 home structure fires in 2014 caused by smoking materials such as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars according to NFPA. Do not smoke in bed and preferably, do not smoke inside. 

Finally, we all should avoid the use of candles in the bedroom or other unattended areas or areas where people may fall asleep. Special attention is required when using a menorah. On average, 22 home candle fires are reported daily. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything flammable and consider using flameless candles.

What to do after a fire.

It’s important to remember that there may still be danger in your home even after the fire appears to be out. The soot and dirty water can make you sick and it is possible for the fire to reignite. There may also be structural damage to your home. Do not enter until the fire department or safety officers have cleared it for you to enter.

Here are a few fire damage tips and steps from FEMA to take after a fire:

  • Contact your insurance company immediately when experiencing a fire damage emergency. They will provide direction on steps to help secure your home and tell you who to call to assist with clean up, restoration, and water damage remediation. 
  • Contact your landlord or mortgage company to report the home fire.
  • Locate valuable documents and records if you can do so safely.
  • Call the police to advise that the home is vacant if you are not staying there.
  • Arrange for temporary housing.
  • Save any receipts for money spent due to the loss. Your insurance company will want to see them, and you will need them for your taxes. This will help with a stress-free claims process.
  • Document all damage.
  • Hire a professional home fire inspector to assess the damage. 
  • If the damage is significant you will want to get a full home inspection and immediately call a water damage remediation specialist and fire damage specialist depending upon the damage.

How to arrange for a full home fire damage inspection

There is often hidden damage as a result of a fire and possible contamination. The structure of your home can also be compromised. Once the fire is out you should have an expert check the structure including the roof, and supports for any fire damage or water damage. This will prevent you from overlooking hidden damage or contamination.  

Work with a fire damage restoration company that can do a full inspection and perform emergency restoration services. They will inspect the roofing for damage, as well as the siding, framing and plumbing and windows, interior walls, and any other special considerations. Smoke damage can also be detrimental and must be addressed. If the fire department has been involved you will likely have water damage to contend with. 

Call an inspector and get the  ball rolling as quickly as possible to avoid any possible mold. 

What is fire damage restoration?

Fire damage restoration is the process of cleaning up and restoring your home after fire damage. The entire process includes stabilizing a property, taking steps to minimize damage, removing soot and debris, removing personal possessions that are damaged, eliminating excess water and drying surfaces, deodorizing deep cleaning, and stain removal. Do not try to remediate your home on your own after a fire. A fire damage restoration professional has the specialized equipment and experience to restore and make your home safe again and to prevent any secondary damage.

Most fire damage restoration professionals are available 24/7 and will provide a fast response. . Time is of the essence so you will want to contact them immediately. Be sure you speak with your insurance company so you understand what services are covered and any limits and exclusions.

Your fire damage restoration begins with an understanding of the extent of the damage so a professional fire damage restoration company will start here. They should do a full assessment of the damage and provide a free estimate of all repairs on the spot. They should document everything for you and the insurance company.

They will take the first step of preventing further damage by plugging any holes and any weakened structures and tarp any open areas if needed. All areas will be dried using commercial dryers. They will remove any debris and clean all smoke and soot stains in your home. They will clean and purify the HVAC system to prevent the spread of soot. and will deodorize your home using air scrubbers, ozone machines, and other state-of-the-art equipment.

Fire and water damage restoration normally go together. Find a specialist who is trained in both of these areas. They will assist with cleaning and removal of damaged materials. They have the special equipment needed for heating and drying to prevent mold and further damage. They can help clean upholstery, carpets, and drapes.

Once they have completed remediation (preventing further damage and clean up) they can assist with the final step which is restoration – rebuilding the damaged area and restoring it to normal to get you back in your house. 

How do I choose the right fire damage restoration and repair company?

When hiring a fire damage and restoration company, be sure to do your due diligence. Some people prefer a locally owned company. Confirm that they are licensed and insured, and that every member of the team that will be working on your home has received specialized training. 

Carefully review any estimates and restoration plans and be sure that you fully understand each step, and have a timeline for completion. Avoid hidden costs by confirming that any work above quote will be discussed and agreed upon upfront.

It is always a good idea to request local references and to check those references. Check with the local Better Business Bureau, and with your insurance agent. And check online for any reviews, complaints, or other comments.

How much does fire damage restoration cost?

Every fire damage situation is unique. The national average for fire damage restoration is over $12,000 but they could be lower or even much higher. That will depend upon the extent of the damage, the materials being used, your location, and other factors. Some variables are how big the damaged area is, how much water removal, soot removal, and smoke removal is required, and how extensive the reconstruction is. 

The actual restoration cost can vary significantly. It is likely that most estimates you get will be very similar since they work off software.

Does my homeowners insurance cover fire damage?

All insurance policies are different, but generally, a homeowner’s policy will provide coverage that will help to repair or replace your home and contents if they are damaged by fire as long as they were caused by sudden and accidental damage. They may also cover some of the costs for you to live elsewhere while the home is being repaired. 

Some personal property should also be covered in the event of peril such as fire or lightning strikes. Landscaping may also be covered. Call your agent and be sure you understand our coverage as well as any exclusions or limits. Some fire damage may not be covered for example if the fire was intentionally set, or if the damage was the result of an act of war. 

Should I hire a property damage attorney?

If your claim is denied or you are not happy with the payout, you will likely want to contact a property damage attorney. They will assist in a review of the policy, your claim, and even send an independent investigator if necessary, challenge the appraisal if necessary, or more. But remember, they do take a portion of the claim themselves so be sure you understand the terms and that you really need this assistance. There are many good attorneys to assist you, but start with your insurance company and be sure you understand your policy and coverage. 

Ten tips to protect yourself and your property from fire.

Keep your property and family safe from preventable fires by taking a few steps of preparation and prevention. Create a fire escape plan and make sure you install and regularly test smoke detectors. Schedule a full fire safety inspection that will cover all potential risks in our home. The cost is around $200 and is a small price to pay for your safety.

Damage Buddy Tip Maintain your smoke alarms by changing the batteries every fall when you change your clocks ahead for daylight savings time.

Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Install smoke alarms on every floor, in every bedroom, and in the kitchen.
  • Do not under any circumstances leave food cooking unattended and be especially cautious with deep fryers and other frying equipment.
  • Have a fire plan that you and your family review. Be sure it will get you out of the house in less than two minutes. Practice this with the entire family.
  • Do not smoke inside the home and never in bedrooms or laying down.
  • Do not use portable space heaters inside. They are the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
  • Always hire a licensed electrician to do any electrical work in your home.
  • Do not run cords under carpets or across rooms and doorways.
  • Limit the plugs in any outlet or power strip.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen and know how to use it. 
  • Do not use light bulbs that exceed the recommended wattage for your lamp.

Sources and more information:

National Fire Protection Association – https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/US-Fire-Problem

FEMA – After The Fire https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa_46.pdf

Safety – https://www.safety.com/fire-safety/