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House fires can ignite when you least expect them, damaging lives and property. In the event of a house fire, the first thing you should do is to make sure that the people in the home are safe. Once you have contacted the fire department and evacuated the home, do not attempt to go back inside to retrieve belongings. Lives are more important than possessions.

Stay away from the fire, and let the fire fighters do their job. Once the fire is extinguished, take the following steps:

  • Secure the fire site from any further damage due to theft or bad weather. Lock all doors and cover any possible access points to the property.
  • Call the Red Cross if you need a place to stay.
  • Report the fire to your insurance company.
  • When leaving the fire site, take valuables with you or entrust them to someone who can take care of them.
  • Make an inventory of the damaged items in your home, noting which of them need replacement and which need repair. Document with photos or videos, which will be part of the report for the insurance company or fire investigators.

The following are things that you should not do after the fire:

  • Do not touch any electrical appliances or devices. There may be frayed wires that could electrocute you.
  • Do not eat any food that was leftover after the fire. Food exposed to extreme temperatures may no longer be safe for human consumption.
  • Do not attempt to clean the house after the fire (no matter how tempting it is to wipe soot and grime off of walls and furniture). Let the fire investigators and insurance company personnel see everything first.

Your actions after the fire can affect your insurance claims, so make sure that you don’t do anything until the fire department and insurance company tell you that their inspections are complete.