After the Fire
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After the Fire

This information will assist you immediately after a fire in your home.

Is it safe to stay in your home?

After a fire or other emergency, it may not be safe for you to stay in your home. The Fire Officer in Charge will advise you if it is safe to stay or not. In some situations the Officer may need to call the local council building inspector to assess the safety of the building.

Electrician

Gas and Electricity

As a result of the fire, gas, electricity, water supply and/or telephone line may have been damaged, destroyed or disconnected by the fire brigade or the provider of these services.

It is the property owner's responsibility to have the services inspected and repaired by a qualified tradesperson and reconnected by the provider.

Property Security

After the emergency services have finished their work, the property will be handed back to you. You are then responsible for the security of your property.

Lock

Your property may need to be protected from further damage by weather, theft and vandalism. You may need to engage a provider of shutters and/or temporary fencing to secure you home.

If you live in rental housing you must inform the real estate agent or owner/landlord to secure the home.

Be aware that any damage to your home that occurs after the emergency resulting from not securing your property may be refused by your insurance company. Your insurance company may be able to help with securing your property.

Insurance

If you are insured, your insurance will be the most important single aspect of recovering from a fire loss. Insurance

Insurance agent

After a fire loss, one of your first obligations is to immediately notify your insurance company or insurance broker. Advise the claims manager of the nature of the incident, the loss or damage and provide them with a forwarding address and telephone number if circumstances have meant leaving the damaged home. Ask your insurer for advice on actions you should take. In consultation with your insurance company, it is important to take steps to protect your property and implement reasonable precautions to prevent further damage or losses from weather, theft or vandalism, such as covering any holes in the roof or walls. The insurance company may refuse to pay losses that occur after the fire incident. Keep receipts for any emergency repair works.

Make a list of damaged personal property, detailing quantity, description, original purchase price, purchase date, damage estimate and replacement cost. Take photographs if possible. Refer to your insurance policy for further advice.

It is important to coordinate with the insurance adjuster or loss assessor before contracting for any services. If you engage the service of any cleaning or repairs contractors without the insurance company’s knowledge or consent, you may be left with bills to pay that otherwise would have been covered by insurance. The sooner your insurer of their broker is notified; the sooner the insurance claim can be processed.

Do not discard or throw away damaged goods without first consulting your insurance company or before an inventory is made. If you cannot remember the name of your insurance company, or the details are not available, contact the Insurance Council of Australia- (1300 728 228 8:30am-5:00pm Monday to Friday).

If you can’t stay in your home

Before you leave your property, check with the Fire Officer in Charge that it is safe to enter. If it is safe to do so, it is recommended you take the following items with you:

  • Identification- driver’s license, Medicare card, passport
  • Insurance contact details and policy
  • Credit cards and/or cheque books
  • Medicines and prescriptions (medication exposed to heat and smoke should be disposed of)
  • Personal aids- mobility aids, glasses, hearing aids etc.
  • Valuables- personal items such as jewellery, photographs, cash, laptops etc.
  • Legal documentation
  • Car and house keys
  • Mobile phone and charger

Where to stay?

If you can't remain in your property, staying with family, friends or neighbours until more permanent arrangements can be made is the best option. Some insurance policies may also cover the cost of accommodation.

Cleaning up

Smoke and water can damage your house and contents. If you have insurance, your insurer/loss adjuster (person appointed by the insurance company to handle your claim) can assist by arranging specialist companies for cleaning, salvage and removal of damaged items and materials.

You may be able to salvage some items that are affected by heat, smoke or water but otherwise intact. Keep in mind that damage to the property often goes beyond what the eye can see. Smoke and soot can travel and penetrate into other rooms affecting walls, carpet, upholstery, curtains, clothing and other belongings.

Here are some general cleaning tips:

  • Get the air moving. Open windows to ventilate areas. Use a fan to circulate air.
  • Dry wet items as soon as possible
  • Take non-washable clothing and curtains to a dry cleaner
  • Wash regular clothing in warm water with detergent
  • To remove soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors, wear rubber gloves and wash with detergent
  • Electrical appliances exposed to fire or water will need to be checked by an electrician or authorised service provider prior to use

If you are leaving your home:

  • Organise to stay somewhere
  • Take the personal items you will need
  • Contact gas, electricity, water and telephone providers to cancel services
  • Cancel all delivery services (e.g. Australia Post to redirect mail, newspapers etc.)
  • Notify important contacts about your change of address such as employer, children’s schools, insurance company and neighbours
  • Contact local police. Inform them that your property has been involved in a fire and is vacant.

Assistance

If you do not have family, friends or neighbours who can assist you, you may be eligible for assistance. The following organisations may be able to provide assistance.

OrganisationPotential AssistanceContact Details
Local Council Municipal Recovery Manager Advice on local community support services  
Victorian Emergency Recover Information Line Hardship assistance 1300 799 232
Office of Housing and Community Buildings (DHHS) For public housing renters 13 11 72
RSPCA   03 9224 2222
Consumer Affairs Victoria If renting you may be entitle to end your tenancy or to reduced rent 1300 558 181
Lifeline Counselling and emotional support 13 11 14
Translating and Interpreting Service   13 14 50
Centrelink For exceptional circumstances relief help 13 28 50

For more information, download the 'After the Fire' brochure (PDF 2Mb).

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