In all the confusion, it’s easy to be unsure about what to do after a house fire.  An accidental fire in the house can strike at any time, and it’s frightening and potentially devastating.

Before we get to that, however, here are some fire facts that you need to know:

Even if a fire is put out quickly, the resulting damage can cost thousands of dollars to the homeowner. Having an insurance policy that can cover the damages and help mitigate financial losses due to a house fire.

However, prevention is still the best defense against fires. Knowing the common causes of house fires can help you assess risks so you can take steps to lower the chances of a fire starting in your home.

Here are the most common fire starters in your home:

Cooking-Related Fires

Did you know that 48% of residential fires are cooking-related fires? Here are the usual suspects:

Heating Appliances

woman warming her hands near a heater

The second leading cause of fires in the home is heating appliances. This includes space heaters or baseboard heaters. They can cause fires if fabrics or other combustible materials are left too close to them. 

Heaters with fuel such as kerosene are especially hazardous. When left unattended, they can ignite or blow up. On the other hand, electrical heaters can cause fires due to faulty electrical wiring. When operating electrical heaters, make sure that curtains or other fabrics do not come in contact with coils as these can ignite and cause fires. 

Electrical Fires

Residential fires account for about 10% of home fires. Sadly, it is also one of the most deadly. About 19% of deaths from home fires are due to electrical fires. 

Electrical fires are hazardous because they often occur in locations not readily seen. They usually start as a spark that ignites building materials or from overloaded circuits that cause wires to overheat. 

Because they are often in walls or hidden locations, they are already significant fires before residents become aware of them. Usually, electrical fires start while residents are sleeping. 


Smoking is not only bad for your health; it can potentially be dangerous for your home as well. While fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials only account for about 5% of home fires, they account for 23% of all fire deaths. This is because fires of this nature occur when the resident falls asleep.

While smoking inside the home is dangerous because cigarette butts dropped on carpets, furniture, and other combustible materials can cause fires, it is most hazardous when done in the bed. Stray ash can readily ignite mattresses, bed sheets, or your clothing. 

If you must, smoke outside or over the sink with an ashtray ready to reduce fire risks. 


Candles are lovely and can add a beautiful glow to your home during the holidays or special occasions. However, they are fire hazards. It does not matter if they are made from beeswax, soya oil, or paraffin. They can ignite and cause fires. 

When lighting candles, make sure that the candle flame is at least 12 inches away from any materials that can catch fire. Never leave a burning candle unattended, and always extinguish the flame after use. 

Keep the lighter or matches used to light candles in a safe place, away from anywhere where children can reach them. 

Better yet, opt for battery-operated flameless luminaries. Better quality ones look remarkably real. They even flicker as real candles do. 

Christmas Trees

Speaking of holidays, another source of fire is Christmas trees. Real evergreen trees, though beautiful, will dry out. By the end of the holiday season, they may be so dry that they can ignite easily. Once the tree catches fire, flames can quickly engulf a room within seconds.

Artificial trees made of vinyl or plastic may be the safer choice. However, take care to test your string lights for any breaks in the wires. Replace your old incandescent bulb string lights with LED bulbs that do not create as much heat as the old-style Christmas lights. 

Whether your tree is natural or artificial, don’t forget to unplug the Christmas tree lights when you’re not at home or when you go to sleep. 

Chemical Fires

Chemical fires are not as common in homes compared to industrial or commercial locations. However, we may store some chemicals in our garage or elsewhere in the house, which can cause fires. 

Examples of these are gasoline (which you may use to power your lawnmower) and other petroleum liquids. These can spontaneously combust or ignite when they come in contact with an open flame. 

It’s important to store these liquids in places protected from heat to prevent them from reaching flash point temperature. Keeping these chemicals away from pilot lights or ignition sources is also important. 

Never store gasoline or petroleum liquid in just any container. Use the approved container to reduce the risk of fires. Remember to keep the container no more than 95% full to allow vapors to expand without causing the rupture.

Dryer Vent Fires

Clothes dryers are one of the most hard-working appliances in our home. However, did you know that the dryers, more specifically, the dryer vent, is a common source of fire? This is due to the lint that builds up in the ducts. 

A clogged dryer vent provides the perfect environment for a fire - fuel in the form of highly combustible lint plus heat from the dryer. The lint can ignite and cause a dryer vent fire when conditions are right.

What To Do After a House Fire

woman standing in front of rubble wondering what to do after a house fire

Taking precautions will undoubtedly reduce the risk of house fires. Still, fires are unpredictable, and you may find yourself having to deal with the aftermath of one despite taking safety measures

A house fire, even a minor one, can affect you profoundly. It can be an emotional time, and you may find yourself overwhelmed by what to do after a house fire. However, during this critical time, it’s essential to keep calm so you can take care of your family and begin the process of fire damage cleanup

Here, Five Star Restoration gives you this useful “To Do” checklist after a house fire. We hope this sets you on the right path to recovery as you move towards restoring your home. 

Call family and friends

This may sound basic, but in the aftermath of a fire, you may even be too overwhelmed to do so. Contact family members who may not have been home when the fire happened, as well as other family or friends, to let them know of what happened. Most importantly, let them know that you are safe.

Arrange for a safe place to stay

A house fire is understandably a traumatic experience, especially for children and pets. Having a place where the family can rest comfortably and safely will be helpful as you plan your next steps after a house fire. 

If staying at a hotel or with family or friends is not possible, you may reach out to local disaster relief agencies like the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. Often, these organizations can arrange for temporary shelter free of charge. 

Make your property secure

Your home may be damaged, but it is still vulnerable to both the weather and unlawful entry. However, it’s vital to ensure that it’s safe to enter before you do so. You need permission from the local Fire Department before entering your home after a fire. 

You may need to board up windows, doors, or other openings with plywood or cover holes in the roof or walls with a tarp to prevent damage from the weather.

Call your utility providers: gas, electricity, and water

Call them to inform them of the fire and arrange for repair and reconnection after your home is repaired. Do not attempt to reconnect or turn on the supply yourself. 

Contact your insurance company.

It’s essential to call your provider to start a claim. You may be able to address your immediate needs depending on your insurance coverage. The “Loss of use” clause in your policy may cover your living expenses and other daily expenses. 

Your insurance agent can assist in securing your property (if you haven’t done so yet) and recommend cleaning and restoration companies

In addition, your insurance company may send an adjuster to your property to evaluate the fire damage to your home. Based on the adjuster’s assessment, your insurance company will decide if you can save your home or if it must be gutted and rebuilt.

Contact a restoration company.

Call a trusted restoration company like Five Star Restoration so you can begin fire damage repair.

Obtain a copy of the fire report from the Fire Department

This report helps provide the information needed by your insurance company. 

Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items

While this may be time-consuming, it’s important to document all fire damage. Take photos of the damage and make detailed notes. 

We recommend keeping a notebook or a binder to organize all your notes and any pertinent information connected with the fire damage in your home. Save all receipts for all your fire loss-related expenses, as well. These may be needed by your insurance company concerning your claim. 

Recover valuable possessions left undamaged by the fire

Sort through your belongings and find items that may be salvageable. These may include items or documents saved by a fire-proof box. During the fire damage restoration process, any undamaged items should be put in a safe place (possibly even in storage). 

Notify your local police department

If you won’t be occupying your home during the restoration process, it’s advisable to notify the police, so it remains safe during your absence. An empty house can attract squatters or looters even in its damaged state. 

Don’t forget your finances.

Regardless of the house fire, your financial obligations will continue. While insurance policies may cover mortgages, they may not cover recurring costs. It’s important to keep up with payments. 

If you won’t be going back to your home for several months, cancel any cable and internet services.

If the fire was particularly catastrophic, you might have lost things like cooking equipment and clothing, as well. Ensure that any expenses you incurred when replacing these items have the proper receipts. This helpful paper trail ensures that you can quickly reimburse your costs. 

Other Tasks

These are just a few other things you may need to do after a house fire.

Notify your children’s school to let them know that you suffered a fire.

Contact the post office to ask them to hold your mail or forward it to your temporary residence. 

Replace valuable documents and records, including driver’s licenses, passports, birth/marriage/death certificates, divorce papers, property titles or deeds, income tax records, etc. 

Need Help After a House Fire? Call the Experts

A house fire is devastating, and the aftermath can be very challenging. The damage to your home can go beyond the fire itself. There may also be smoke and possibly even water damage. That's why we're here to to help guide you in what to do after a house fire.

For expert fire damage restoration, contact Five Star Restoration. We will clean up and contain the damage in your home, saving you time and providing you peace of mind during this difficult time. 

Call us at (951) 368-2227

We have technicians ready to respond 24/7.

Tags:  what to do after a house fire, common causes of house fires, steps after a house fire, how to recover from a house fire

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