Blue Flower

After the Fire: Returning to Normal

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Recovering from a fire can be a physically and mentally draining process.  When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Often the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact.  This page is assist you in this time of need and hopes to provide useful information. 

Gathered and prepared by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this page is to provide information and assist with you with suggestions that need to be taken immediately. The purpose is help you begin rebuilding your life.  

The First 24 Hours


* Secure yourself and the Site

Contact your local disaster relief service, such as, the American Red Cross at (901) 476-0221 to help with your immediate needs, such as:

  • temporary housing
  • food
  • medicine
  • eyeglasses
  • clothing
  • otheressential items
  • Contact you insurance agent/company

* Cautions

  • DO NOT ENTER  THE DAMAGED SITE.  Fires can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. Fire suppression water remains in residence and can cause collapse or fallen debris.
  • Three Star Fire Department will see that utilities (water, electricity and natural gas) are either safe to use or are disconnected before we leave the site.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TURN ON UTILITIES YOURSELF.
  • Be watchful for structural damage caused by the fire.  Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse. 
  • Food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke, soot, and fwater should not be consumed.

* Leaving Your Home

  • Contact your local police/Sheriff's Department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.  Non-emergency dispatch (901) 475-4300.
  • In some cases it may be neccessary to board up openings to discourage trespassers and internal exposure to outside elements (weather). 
  •  Beginning immediately, save receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent related to your fire loss and also for verifying losses claimed on your income tax.


  • If it is safe to do so, try to locate the following items:
    • identification such as driver's license and Social Security Cards
    • insurance information
    • medication information
    • eyeglasses, hearing aids or other prosthetic devices
    • valuables, such as credit cards, bank books, cash and jewelry
  • There are many people/entities that should be notified of your loss and relocation, including
    • your insurance agent/company
    • your mortgage company
    • your family and friends
    • your employer
    • your child's school
    • your post office
    • any delivery services
    • your fire and police departments
    • your utility companies
  • Do not throw away damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damages are teken into consideration in developing your insurance claim.
  • If you are considering contracting for inventory or repair services discuss your plans with your insurance agent/company first.

If you are INSURED

  • Give notice of the loss to the insurance company or the insurer's agent/company.
  • Ask the insurance company what to do about the immediate needs of the dwelling, such as covering doors, windows, and other exposed areas, and pumping out water. 
  • Ask your insurance agent/company what actions are required of you.  Some policyholders may be required to make an inventory of damaged personal property showing in detail the quantity, description and how much you paid fo the items.

If you are NOT INSURED

  • Your recovery from a fire loss may be based upon your own resources and help from your community.
  • Private organizations that may be sources of aid or information:
    • American Red Cross
    • Salvation Army
    • Religious Organizations
    • Department of Social Services
    • Civic organizations
    • State or Municipal emergency services office
    • Non-profit crisis counseling centers

Valuing Your Property

You will encounter different viewpoints on the value of your property in adjusting your fire loss or in claiming a casualty loss on your federal income tax.  Knowing the following terms will help you understand the process used to determine the value of your fire loss:

  • Your Personal Valuation: Your personal loss of goods through fire may be difficult to measure. THese personal items have SENTIMENTAL VALUE to you; however, it is objective measures of value that you, the insurer, and the Internal Revenue Service will use as a common ground for discussion.  Some of these objective measures are discussed below.
  • Cost when purchased: This is an important element in establishing an item's final value. REceipts will help verify the cost price.
  • Fair market value before the fire: This concept is also expressed as ACTUAL CASH VALUE. This is what you could have received for the item if you had sold it the day before the fire.  The price would reflects its cost at purchase minus the wear it had sustained since purchase. DEPRECIATION is the fomal term used to express the amount of value an item loses over a period of time.
  • Value after the fire: This sometimes called the item's salvage value.

Restoration Services

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These are companies that specialize in the restoration of fire damaged structures.  WHether you or your insurer employs this type of service, be clear of who will pay.  Be sure to requrest an estimate of cost for the work.  Before any company is hired check their references.  THese companies provide a range of services that may include some or all of the following:

  • securing the site against further damage
  • estimating structural damage
  • repairing structural damage
  • estimating the cost to repair or renew items of personal property
  • packing, transportation, and storage of household items
  • securing appropriate cleaning or repair subcontractos
  • storing repaired items until needed

 Replacement of Valuable Documents and Records

Here is a check list of documents you will need to replace if they have been destroyed, and who to contact for information on the replacement process.

ITEM                                                         WHO TO CONTACT

Driver's License, Auto Registration          Department of motor vehicles

Bank books (checking, savings, etc)        Your Bank, as soon as possible

Insurance policies                                     Your Insurance Agent

Military Discharge Papers                         Department of Veterans Affairs

Passports                                                  Passport service

Birth, death and marriage certification     Bureau of Records (of State)

Divorce Papers                                         Circuit court where decree was issued

Social Security or Medicare cards            Local Social Security Office

Credit cards                                              Issuing companies

Titles to deeds                                          City/County Records Department  

Stocks and bonds                                     Issuing company or your broker

Wills                                                           Your lawyer

Medical Records                                       Your doctor

Income Tax Records                                 Accountant or IRS Center you filed at

Mortgage papers                                      Lending Institution

Citizenship paper                                      U.S. Immigration and Naturalization


Salvage Hints

Professional fire and water damage restoraton businesses may be the best source of cleaning and restoring your personal belonging. Companies offering this service can be located in the phone director.  Three Star Volunteer FIre Department does not endorse, just providing information.

* Clothing

A word of caution before you begin:  test garments before using any treatment, and follow the manufacturer's instructions.  Several of the cleaning mixtures described in this section contain the substance Tri-Sodium Phosphate.  This substance can be purchased under the generic name TSP.  Tri-Sodium Phosphate is a caustic substance used commonly as a clearning agent.  It should be used with care and stored out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using if you have sensitive skin. Read the label for further instruction.

Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing.  The following formula may work for clothing that can be bleached:

  • 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phospate (TSP)
  • 1 cup household cleaner or chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon warm water

Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water. Dry thoroughly.

An effective way to remove mildew from clothing is to wash the fresh stain with soap and warm water, rinse, and then dry in the 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-powered 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

Don't use appliances that have been exposed to water or steam 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.

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* Food

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

To remove odor from your refridgerator 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. Baking soda in an open container or piece of charcoal can also be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.

* Rugs and Carpets

Rugs and carpets should be allowed to dry thoroughly.  THrow rugs 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 up drying.  Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry, Even though the surface seems dry, moisture remaining at the base of the tufts can quickly cause the rug to rot.  For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or a qualified carpet cleaning professional.

fire damage


* Leather and Books

Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth.  Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper 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. Rinse leather and suede jackets in cold water and dry away from heat and sun.

Wet books must be taken care of as soon as possible.  The best method to save wet books is to freeze them in a vacuum freezer.  This special freezer will remove the moisture wihout damaging the pages.

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

A local librarian may also be a good resource.

* Locks and Hinges

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

* Walls, Floors and Furniture

To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, use a mild soap or detergen or mix together the following solution:

  • 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate (GSP)
  • 1 cup household clearner or chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon warm water

Wear rubber gloves when cleaning with this solution. Be sure to rinse your walls and furniture with clear warm water and dry thoroughly after washing them with the solution.

Wash a small area at one time, working form the floor up. Then rinse the wall with clear water immediately. Ceilings shold be washed last.

Do not repaint until walls and ceilings are completely dry. 

Your wallpaper can also be repaired. Use a commercial paste to repaste a loose edge or section. Contact your wallpaper dealer or installer for information on wallpaper cleaners. Washable wallpaper can be cleansed like any ordinary wall, but care must be taken not to soak the paper. WOrk from bottom to top to prevent streaking.

* Wood Furniture

  • Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp and twist out of shape.
  • Clear off mud and dirt.
  • Remove drawers. Let them dry thoroughly so there will be no sticking when you replace them.
  • Scrub wood furniture or fixtures with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution.
  • Wet wood can decay and mold, so dry thorourghly, Open doors and windows for good ventilation. Turn on your furnace or air conditioner, if necessary.
  • If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of borax dissoved in hot water.
  • To remove white spots or film, rub the wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup household ammonia and 1/2 cup water.  Then wiipe the surface dry and polish with wax or rub the surface with a cloth soaked in a solution 1/2 cup turpentine and 1/2 cup linseed oil. Be careful - turpentine is combustible.

You can also rub the wood surface with a fine grade steel wool pad dripped in liquid polishing wax, clean the area with a soft cloth and then buff.

* Money Replacementistockphoto 532403692 612x612

Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only half-burned or less (if half or more is still in tact), you can take the remainder to your regional Federal Reserve Bank for replacement.  Ask your local bank for the nearest one.  Or you can mail the burned or torn money by 'registered mail, return receipt requested" to:

Department of the Treasury

Department of Engraving and Printing

* Tax Information

Check with an accountant, tax consultant or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about special benefits for people with limited financial needs after a fire loss.

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