After The Fire: Returning Back to Normal
Incident: Lolo Creek Complex Wildfire
AFTER THE FIRE: Returning Back to Normal
In Montana, permission to return home after a wildfire is usually given by local law enforcement. They deem it safe to return to your home once the wildfire and any home fires have been extinguished and when other hazards, such as downed power lines, do not pose a threat.
Use Caution When Returning to Your Property. You should be prepared for any hazards that may be present by being properly dressed. Wear boots, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. A hard hat can provide additional safety. As there may be smoke and ash present, you may want a dust mask as well.After the Fire Checklist
1. If you are insured, contact your insurance company for detailed instructions on protecting the property, conducting inventory and contacting fire damagerestoration companies.
2. Do not attempt to reconnect utilities yourself.
3. Conduct an inventory of damaged property and items. Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made.
4. If you leave your home, let your police or sheriff’s department know the site will be unoccupied.
5. Begin saving receipts for any money you spend related to fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and for verifying losses claimed on Income tax.
6. Check with an accountant or the Internal Revenue Service about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss
Things to Look For
- charred trees and power poles that may be unstable;
- live power lines that may be on the ground;
- spot fires and smoldering debris;
- live embers;
- ash pits (holes created by burned trees filled with hot ash).
Before Entering Your Home
- FIRST check for the smell of gas or propane If you smell gas/propane, leave the house and turn the supply off at the tank or outside valve.
- Open the doors and windows, and contact your utility provider.
- Check for electrical power. If there is power, temporarily turn it off until you've completed your inspection. If there is no power, see if the main breaker is on or call your electric company.
- Inspect your roof and attic for sparks or embers. If you find embers or sparks, call 911.
- Check roofs and floors to be sure they are structurally safe before entering.
- Check for and extinguish any burning embers or smoldering debris found on your roof, in rain gutters, on the porch, or anywhere else on your property. Check back frequently over the course of several days to make sure they are completely out.
- 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 the cans have bulged or rusted. Do not refreeze frozen food that has thawed.
- To remove odor 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. Baking soda in an open container or a piece of charcoal can also be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to absorb odor.
Once inside your home
- Embers can enter attics through attic vents if not properly screened. Check for embers and smoke in the attic and crawl space. Do this every day for several days. If found, call 911.
- Beware of hot spots, dust, ash, broken glass, and other sharp objects.
- Continue wearing boots, heavy clothing, and rubber gloves when sifting through debris and handling hazardous materials (cleaning solvents, paints, batteries, etc).
- Wear a mask while sifting through debris to avoid breathing in smoke and ash.
- Do not allow children to play in the area.
- Be aware that animals may have taken shelter in your home, garage, or outbuildings. Leaving a door open door will allow animals to return on their own to their natural surroundings.
- Contact your utility providers (water, natural gas, and electricity) to restore service. Do not attemp to RECONNECT the utilities yourself.
- Animals that appear injured or unwilling to leave may require you to call animal control.
- Ask your insurance provider what actions are required of you and what you should do about covering broken windows, doors, and other exposed areas, pumping out water, and any other activities you may need to do to secure your home.
- Take pictures and/or video, and start a list of damaged belongings.
- Do not start cleaning or throwing away any damaged goods until you contact your insurance company.
For more information on what to do after a fire go to: FireSafeMontana.org, MSUextension.org/wildfire (under the home and family tab).