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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

After a fire: what to do

There is support available to help you and your family after a fire, including temporary accommodation. Find out what services you can access, what actions you need to take and your responsibility to protect your property from further damage.

Making sure your home is structurally safe

After the fire is put out, the emergency services will tell you if they think the building is unsafe. If it is:

  • they will tell the local building control officer
  • public access may be fenced off and the building repairs left to you
  • they may shore up or demolish the property to avoid danger to the public

Support available immediately after a fire

The fire and emergency support service is provided by British Red Cross volunteers using a specially adapted vehicle. They will arrive at the scene of any incident within 90 minutes of being called out, providing practical help and emotional support to those affected by fire.

The service is able to provide:

  • immediate temporary shelter in the vehicle
  • help finding temporary accommodation
  • first aid and emotional support
  • support with the care of children and pets
  • shower and toilet facilities
  • clothing, toiletries and light refreshments
  • the use of a phone and camera to help with insurance claims

The service will respond to a request from the fire and rescue service.

Support if you can’t stay in your home

If you can't live in your home after a fire, you could:

  • arrange temporary accommodation with relatives or friends
  • contact your local council's housing office

If you are made homeless by fire, there is help available. See 'Homelessness - getting help if you need somewhere to live' for advice and information.

Financial assistance after a fire

You may be eligible for a Crisis Loan. This is available to people who need financial help after an emergency or disaster. Find out more, including how to apply, by reading ‘Crisis Loans’.

First actions to take after a fire

Make your property secure

When the emergency services leave, you're responsible for the security of your property. Your insurers will expect you to make sure your home is secure. Remove all valuables from the property if it’s safe to do so and close all doors and windows.

If windows and doors need boarding up, contact your local council if you are a council tenant. If you’re not a council tenant, you can find a glazier in a local phone directory. You can get access to the internet and phone directories at your local library.

Tell the police if you leave the property before it’s secure, explaining any arrangements you have made with trades people.

You will probably be charged for any services to make your home secure. You may be able to claim some costs back through your home insurance, so keep all receipts and paperwork.

Contact your insurance company

Following a fire, it’s advisable to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Contact electricity, gas and water suppliers

If your electricity, gas or water supplies were damaged in the fire, or disconnected following it, contact your supplier to arrange repair and reconnection. Don’t attempt to reconnect or turn on the supply yourself.

You can find contacts for gas, water and electricity companies in a local phone directory (you can access one for free at a library).

Replacing valuable documents and records

If important personal documents are lost or damaged in your house fire, you’ll need to contact a range of organisations to get replacements. Directgov can help you find contacts for the documents below:

  • driver's licence – see ‘Apply online to replace your driving licence’ 
  • passport – see ‘Replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport’ 
  • birth, marriage and death certificates – see ‘Order a birth, marriage or death certificate online’ 
  • divorce papers – contact the court where the decree was issued using the CourtFinder tool below, or use a Decree Absolute service
  • benefits and social security payments – search ‘A-Z contact details for entitlements and benefits’
  • property titles or deeds – contact the Land Registry using the link below 
  • income tax records – contact the HMRC office where you filed your accounts or your accountant using the link below 
  • vehicle registration – see ‘Apply for a vehicle registration certificate’

Your local fire and rescue service may have a comprehensive list of documents you may need to replace on its website.

Cleaning up after a fire

Before starting to clean, make sure you consult your insurance company. They may want you to use their preferred professional cleaners.

If you are cleaning up yourself, much dirt and soot from a fire can be washed off using soapy water. There are a few areas of clean up where you need to be careful:

Electrical appliances

Any appliances that may have been in contact with fire, water or steam shouldn’t be used until an electrician has confirmed they are safe to use.

Food

Throw away any cans that have bulged or are dented or rusted. Never re-freeze food that has thawed or partially thawed.

Regional fire services and local councils often have tips and advice on cleaning up after a fire on their websites.

Useful contacts

Additional links

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