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House fires can be avoided, but they’re more common than you may realize.

According to a 2020 report from the NFPA, an average of 353,100 houses catch structural fire damage each year. This report was based on data received between 2014-2018. House fires are an event we’d all rather avoid than have to deal with the aftermath.

If you’ve experienced a fire previously, we’re sorry for your loss. This tragic event takes its toll on more than our homes. So, to assist you in the prevention of house fires and the process of what occurs after a house fire, we’ve collected a list of information that will better prepare you in case of such an emergency.

This resource will help you prepare for possible fires and what comes after a fire. The information is based on our own experiences of working in the fire damage restoration business for over 20 years and online information we’ve gathered. We recommend that every homeowner understands the preventative measures they can take to keep fire out of the home. We’re all susceptible to house fires, but they don’t need to ruin our lives.

How to Prevent Fires in Your Home

Fire prevention can be simple. Through various methods, you can avoid fires from occurring in the first place, but you can also be prepared to put out a fire if it starts. The more time a fire has access to oxygen, the less time you have to extinguish it on your own.

We highly recommend keeping yourself and your family safe at all costs! You shouldn’t risk your life to put out a fire. If it gets to this point, your local firefighters are at-the-ready to take on the dangerous situation. To deal with a small fire on your own, here are a few things you can do.

1. Don’t Walk Away from the Kitchen

The leading cause of house fires, according to the NFPA, is cooking blunders. 66% of cooking fires come from the ignition of food or another item you’re using to cook with. People leave their stovetop on, the food catches fire or something around the stovetop does, then the fire spreads upwards into the cabinetry and ceiling to spread throughout the home. You use grease and oils during cooking, so a fire igniting from extreme heat is very common if you don’t keep your eyes on what you’re cooking at all times.

For your sake and the sake of the house, keep your attention on the cooking!

2. Get Your Electrical Wiring Routinely Checked

Another leading cause of house fires is electrical issues. Too many wires plugged into the same outlet, exposed wires, or faulty wiring can cause electrical problems. Even your heating appliances can catch fire.

You should, at a minimum, have an electrician come out to your home for electrical and appliance inspections at least once per year. They will be looking out for anything that could potentially cause a fire to erupt in the house. They can even make recommendations as to which devices should be plugged into the same outlet and which ones shouldn’t.

3. Have Smoke Detection Devices Throughout Your Entire Home

Fires can start anywhere, so you want to be alerted no matter where it starts. Smoke detection systems should be installed throughout your home. Modern-day built homes already have this system installed in each room of the house. However, some older homes haven’t been completely updated with this type of prevention technology.

If your home doesn’t have a smoke detection device or the batteries in the device are old, causing the device to be offline, mitigate this problem! Be alerted immediately to the potential hazard of a fire by installing smoke detection devices all throughout your home. They live in the ceiling so they’re completely out of the way and since smoke rises, they’ll know about the fire before you do. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

4. Keep a Fire Extinguisher On Hand

Fire extinguishers should be a first purchase for anyone who moves into a home, apartment, townhome, or any other type of residency. Houses don’t typically come with a fire extinguisher since they aren’t mandatory by law to keep in a family residence. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.

A fire extinguisher may be the solution to put out a small fire. It obviously won’t be a go-to device if the fire has spread outrageously throughout the house, but you might be able to use it to make a clear path for yourself and others to escape the house.

Keep your fire extinguisher in an easy-to-get-to space. Don’t place it behind large items that can’t be moved in the event of an emergency. Keep it close to areas where a fire could potentially start, such as near the kitchen.

Follow the PASS guidelines when using a fire extinguisher and always ensure that your extinguisher is full!

Pull the safety pin.

Aim the nozzle at the base of the flame.

Squeeze the trigger.

Sweep side to side to extinguish the fire.

With time, companies have been able to move past just a simple fire extinguisher. Technological advancements have created things such as the AFG Fire Ball. A natural-ingredient, waterproof fire extinguisher that you throw directly at the flames. This incredible piece of firefighting technology is becoming more mainstream to keep in American homes. It’s effective and non-toxic to boot.

5. Have a Fire Evacuation Plan

If there is a fire, you don’t want to get trapped in your home, have an escape plan ready that everyone in the house will remember. Set up a designated route.

Where will people evacuate the house from? The backdoor? The front door? If there’s a fire in the kitchen versus the bedroom, what will the difference be in the route? If someone is on the second level or in the basement, how will they know about the fire? How do they escape?

What items are you able to bring along with you? Only necessities matter because lives matter the most.

Where will you all meet? Across the street? Out in the front yard? You need a safe place to stay far enough away from the fire while you call the fire department.

Common Causes of House Fires

Knowing how fires start can help you prevent them! We’ve already listed that cooking is the leading cause of house fires, but what else can spark a flame?

  • Unattended cooking, stovetops being left on
  • Heating appliances
  • Electrical, old or exposed wiring
  • Candles
  • Smoking
  • Chemical fires such as gas ignition
  • Light fixtures such as lamps with fabric lampshades
  • Barbeques gone wrong

Lots of things can cause house fires, so you should always be paying attention to anything that is running/turned on that can cause a fire.

What Happens Once a Fire Starts?

A fire can grow and expand in the home environment swiftly. In just 30 seconds, a flame can run rampant, leaving you in a higher safety risk situation. If there is a lot of air movement in your home where the fire starts, it can spread even faster.

Evacuate the Premises

The first thing you should do if you can’t put out the fire yourself is to gather the people who are in the house and use your fire evacuation plan. Once you’re in a safe space, now you can call the local fire department. Don’t try running back into the home to gather more items, it’s clearly an unsafe situation.

Prepare for the Damages

When the fire department arrives, they’ll be using water to put out the fire. Hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water will be used to completely put out the fire. This means that you’ll now have damages to your home from fire, smoke, and water. Though it’s difficult, try to mentally prepare yourself for what has possibly been damaged in your home. Everything from furniture to important personal belongings that hold memories can be damaged and most likely are. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to carefully assess the situation on your hands.

Contact Your Home Insurance Provider

Fires are almost always covered by your homeowners insurance policy. As quickly as you can, you must alert your insurance provider to the property damage event. This will give them time to make arrangements with you as to where you’ll stay and what information will be needed from you to make a Loss of Use Claim. Not telling your insurance company about the event could leave you in a darker situation where you try to fight your insurance to help you cover the damages.

Alert the Police

Though you’ve already contacted the fire department and they’re taking care of the situation, you’ll want the local police department to be on the lookout of your home while you’re getting things handled. People can take advantage of this situation and might try to commit burglary while you are away from your home. You’ve already dealt with enough, more bad news isn’t something you want.

A patrol vehicle can pass through the neighborhood by your house to ensure your property and belongings are safe after the fire.

How to Deal with the Restoration of Your Home

Now that the fire is out and your insurance is aware of the circumstances, you need to plan out the restoration of your home. Begin this early on if you can. The sooner a restoration team comes out to assist with the damages, the better. After everything that’s happened, you don’t want more damage to come to fruition. Further structural damages can still occur and all of the water that was poured into your home will need to be extracted properly before mold grows; which only takes 24 hours.

Most people only think about the fire damage, but the water damage is equally worrisome.

Find a Place to Stay

You’ll need to have a place to stay no matter what since the damage to your home is dangerous to go back to. Smoke and soot are hazardous too, so even breathing in your home without proper gear is unsafe.

Your insurance provider should help cover the cost of the stay if you go to a hotel, this is called Additional Living Expenses. They will also help cover the cost of food while you are away from the house property.

We recommend that you try staying with family members or friends if possible, this will minimize costs.

Hire a Local Restoration Company

Your insurance provider will already be in contact with you about hiring a restoration company to extract the water, clean up damages from the fire and smoke, and to get started on restoring your home to its previous condition. Though at the moment it may seem like a good idea to follow their recommendations as to who you hire for a restoration company, do your own research.

We’ve been cleaning up other restoration companies’ messes for years because of negligence and simply them not caring enough about your well-being. Your insurance provider won’t typically choose the best restoration company in the area to assist with this recovery process. This is sad but true. So, you as the homeowner need to do your own digging to find a local restoration company you can trust.

Always go local if you can! Local companies care more about your health, safety, and finances than a corporate or franchised restoration company. We want to make things right in your life, so we focus on helping you get through the red tape with your insurance provider and we focus on getting the restoration project done both quickly and efficiently. Safety always comes first.

If you’re in the Gunnison, CO area or nearby cities such as Crested Butte, Lake City, or Buena Vista, then you’re in luck because this is our service area! We assist homeowners with the extraction of water, cleanup of soot, and prevention of mold. When a fire leaves your home in a disaster, we’re here to help 24/7, 365 days per year! Contact us immediately after the fire has been put out to get started on restoring your home.

Restoration Takes Time

Please understand that restoring a home takes time. Depending on how severe the damages to your home are will dictate the restoration process timeline. We first have to start with the extraction of the water, soot, and damaged items. We’ll need to check for possible mold growth due to the standing water the fire department used to extinguish the flames. Once that’s all done, construction and repairs can finally start.

It’s a long, tedious process that can take months, so be aware that it’s not so simple to get you back in your home.

Restoration Compensation

Again, your insurance will cover the costs associated with the damages to your house, damaged belongings and furniture, and restoration services. However, this can take a long time and is a less than ideal process to go through when working with your insurance. If your restoration company states that they can help you with your insurance claim, take them up on it! They’ve got experience helping you get the most out of your situation.