Recovering from a fire

Recovering from a domestic fire can be a time-consuming business. The following information should help to ease the burden and ensure you are back in your home as soon as possible.

The clean up

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Recovering from a fire may take a long time and many of the things you have to do will be new to you.

If you are not insured, your recovery from a fire loss most likely will be dependent upon your own resources.

Private organisations that can help include the British Red Cross and the Salvation Army. You could also talk with your church or synagogue. Local civic groups such as the Lions or Rotary Clubs may be able to help.

If your electricity, gas or water supply has been damaged by the fire, you should contact your supplier to arrange re-connection. Do not attempt to re-connect or turn on the supply yourself.

The British Red Cross offer a Fire Victim Support service designed to meet the needs of people who have suffered damage to their home following a fire, flood or similar incident. It's a free service delivered by specially trained volunteers who work closely with the local Fire & Rescue Service.

Contact the following:

  • Driver's license - DVLA
  • Bank books - contact your bank, as soon as possible
  • Insurance policies - contact your insurance agent
  • Passports - Identity and Passport Service
  • Birth, death, marriage certificates - General Register Office
  • Divorce papers - contact the Court where the decree was issued
  • Social Security - Department for Work & Pensions
  • Credit Cards - contact the issuing companies, as soon as possible
  • Titles or deeds - contact the records department of city or county in which the property is located
  • Stocks and bonds - contact the issuing company or your broker
  • Wills - contact your solicitor
  • Medical records - contact your doctor
  • Warranties - contact the issuing company
  • Income tax records - HM Revenue and Customs or your accountant
  • Vehicle registration - DVLA


Smoke odour and soot sometimes can be washed from clothing. The following formula will often work for
clothing that can be bleached:

4-6 tbsp. of Tri-Sodium Phosphate
l cup household chlorine bleach
l gallon warm water

Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water and dry well.

Be aware that Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used as a cleaning agent. It should be used with care and stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using it. Read the label carefully. To remove mildew, wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water. Then rinse and dry in sun. If the stain has not disappeared, use lemon juice and salt, or a diluted solution of household chlorine bleach.

Cooking Utensils

Your pots, pans, flatware, etc., should be washed with soapy water, rinsed and then polished with a fine-powdered cleaner. You can polish copper and brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar.

Electrical Appliances

Appliances that have been exposed to water or steam should not be used until you have a service representative check them. This is especially true of electrical appliances. In addition, steam can remove the lubricant from some moving parts. If the fire department turned off your gas or power during the fire, call the electric or gas company to restore these services - Do not try to do it yourself.


Wash your canned goods in detergent and water. Do the same for food in jars. If labels come off, be sure you mark the contents on the can or jar with a grease pencil. Do not use canned goods when cans have bulged or are dented or rusted.

If your home freezer has stopped running, you still can save the frozen food. Keep the freezer closed. Your freezer has enough insulation to keep food frozen for at least one day - perhaps for as many as two or three days. Move your food to a neighbour's freezer or a rented locker. Wrap the frozen food in newspapers and blankets or use insulated boxes. Do not re-freeze food that has thawed.

To remove odour from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water. Some baking soda in an open container, or a piece of charcoal can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odour.

Flooring and Rugs

When water gets underneath linoleum, it can cause odours and warp the wood floor. If this happens, remove the entire sheet. If the linoleum is brittle, a heat lamp will soften it so it can be rolled up without breaking. If carefully removed, it can be re-cemented after the floor has completely dried. Small blisters in linoleum can be punctured with a nail and re-cemented if you are careful. Dilute regular linoleum paste thin enough to go through a hand syringe and shoot adhesive through the nail hole. Weigh down the linoleum with bricks or boards. It usually is possible to cement loose tiles of any type. Wait until the floor is completely dry before beginning.

Rugs and carpets also should be allowed to dry thoroughly. Throw rugs then can be cleaned by beating, sweeping or vacuuming, and then shampooing. Rugs should be dried as quickly as possible. Lay them flat, and expose them to a circulation of warm, dry air. A fan turned on the rugs will speed drying. Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry. Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the tufts can quickly rot a rug. For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or qualified carpet cleaning professional.

Mattresses and Pillows

Reconditioning an innerspring mattress at home is very difficult, if not impossible. Your mattress may be able to be renovated by a company that builds or repairs mattresses. If you must use your mattress temporarily, put it out into the sun to dry. Then cover it with rubber or plastic sheeting. It is almost impossible to get smoke odour out of pillows. The feathers and foam retain the odour.

Leather and Books

Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspapers to retain shape. Leave suitcases open. Leather goods should be dried away from heat and sun. When leather goods are dry, clean with saddle soap. You can use steel wool or a suede brush on suede. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold weather and dry away from heat and sun.

Wet books must be taken care of as soon as possible. The best methods to save wet books is to freeze them in a vacuum freezer. This special freezer will remove the moisture without damaging the pages.

If there will be a delay in locating such a freezer, place them in a normal freezer until a vacuum freezer can be located.

Locks and Hinges

Locks (especially iron locks) should be taken apart, wiped with kerosene and oiled. If locks cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or keyhole, and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges also should be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.

Walls and Furniture

To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, mix together:

  • 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
  • 1 cup household chloride bleach
  • 1 gallon warm water

Wear rubber gloves when cleaning. After washing the article, rinse with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.

Walls may be washed down while wet. Use a mild soap or detergent. Wash a small area at one time, working from the floor up. Then rinse the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. Do not repaint until the walls and ceilings are completely dry.

Wallpaper also can be repaired. Use a commercial paste to repaste loose edges or sections. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be washed like an ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. Work from bottom to top to prevent streaking.