Fire & Smoke Damage & Prevention

Getting Past the Trauma & Preventing Another Fire

A fire is a traumatic event. The National Fire Protection Association reports that in an average lifetime, any residence (including apartments) has a 25 percent chance of having a fire large enough to report to a fire department. And although residential fires are more likely to cause injuries, deaths and financial loss than nonresidential building fires, cooking is the leading cause of both. Find out everything you need to know about fire and smoke damage.

What to do immediately after a fire.

Be Cautious

Items that have not been completely consumed by flames, may need careful cleaning because of heat damage, smoke damage and even water damage from the water used to put out the fire. The soot and dirty water could make you sick.

You may also have incurred broken windows, holes in your walls, roof and other property damage in the fire.  Only enter your home after the fire department clears you to go in.

Prevent Further Damage

Once you have clearance from the fire marshal, there are a few things you can do on your own.

  • Open windows and set up fans to get air moving.
  • Take pictures of all the damage.
  • Put aluminum foil or plastic wrap under furniture legs to prevent carpet stains.
  • Cover dry, clean items with plastic.
  • Shut off electric, gas and water mains.
  • Empty refrigerators and freezers and prop doors open to allow air circulation.
  • Within the first 24 hours, clean and protect chrome, brass, other brightwork by washing with detergent or metal-specific cleaner and applying a coating of Vaseline or oil.
  • Call a restoration company to secure your property before you leave.

Find Somewhere Safe to Stay

  • Call friends and family, or
  • Contact a disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. They can help you find a place to stay, get food, clothing and medicine.


Next Steps After the Fire

What you'll need to have and do.

Download the fire information checklist.

Tips to prevent fires.

Watch out for wiring.

  • Keep watch on electrical cords and replace any showing signs of wear.
  • Never pinch or cover cords.
  • Don’t overload your electrical system.
  • Use surge protectors for computers, televisions, and other valuable electronics.

Stay alert in the kitchen.

  • Do not leave pots and pans unattended while cooking.
  • Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher accessible.
  • Keep your stove and oven clean, as leftover food splatter or grease can later catch fire.

Keep an eye on the dryer.

  • Clean out your dryer vent frequently.
  • Empty the lint filter after each load of laundry.
  • Clean lint from under and behind your dryer.

Be careful with heating sources.

  • Keep space heaters clear from furniture, curtains or other objects that could ignite.
  • If you install a wood or pellet stove, make sure it complies with local laws and stick to the manufacturer’s instructions or hire a professional for installation.

Keep your chimney clean.

  • Every year, have your chimney inspected by a Chimney Safety Institute of America-certified chimney sweep. Have a professional clean and repair the chimney when necessary.
  • Only use seasoned wood, not green or damp wood.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace, as these materials can all start fires in your chimney.


It's grilling season! Prevent seasonal fires.

Get timely fire prevention tips.

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Fire Safety Preparation

To promote fire safety, school kids visit fire departments and vice versa, but for adults, this information is often overlooked or forgotten. Here are a few reminders on staying safe if a fire breaks out.

Evacuation Plan Basics

  • Know and practice two ways out of every room in your home or business. Remember, you may have only seconds to get out safely, so practice timing.
  • Test to be sure all doors and windows to the outside open easily.
  • Keep eyeglasses, keys, phone and medically necessary devices within reach next to your bed.
  • Clear clutter that may block your escape route.

When the Fire and Smoke Alarm Sounds

  • Stay calm. Get out quickly.
  • Never go back inside for people, pets or things.
  • Feel the doorknob and the cracks around a door before opening. If you feel heat, use your second way out.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke.
  • If you can’t get out of the room, keep the door closed, and cover vents and cracks around doors to keep smoke out. Signal for help at the window with a light colored cloth or flashlight.



Plan your evacuation route.

Created by the National Fire Protection Association, this template will help you create an evacuation plan.

Download the file.

Do you know what to do after a fire?

Download our Emergency Fire Checklist