After a Fire


Experiencing a house fire is a very difficult and overwhelming occurrence. Everything that you ever owned, earned, or bought could be gone. A fire in a home, whether you live in an apartment, a single family, or multifamily home, can cause serious damage. The building and many of the things in your home may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke, and water. You will find that things the fire did not burn up are now ruined by smoke and soggy with water used to put out the flames It is going to take a while for you to adjust and feel like you can cope. In the aftermath of a fire, it is very important to know what to do to protect yourself and others from any possibility of further harm. It is hoped that this information will assist you in reducing your losses and help speed your return to a normal lifestyle.

Reporting the fire to your insurance company
After your immediate needs are taken care of, everyone is safe and the firefighters have gone, telephone your insurance company to report your loss. If you are renting, alert the owner of the damaged rental property as soon as possible.
A house or building may be too badly damaged and you may not be allowed inside. Check with the fire department before they leave the scene for medications, eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc, and any valuables such as money, insurance policies, jewelry, cheque books, credit /debit cards.

Your insurance company will appoint an adjuster who oversees larger losses and will guide you throughout your claim. The adjuster will review and analyze the loss and then work directly with the property owner and the contractor ensuring the property damage repair is completed to return the home.

Your insurance company often works with contractors that are professionally trained in fire restoration. The contractor will make sure the home is boarded up, damaged roof is covered over, doors and windows are secured, and utilities (gas, water and electricity) are turned off to prevent further damage to your home.

Your insurance company will require an inventory of your contents. Make a list of damaged and/or missing property. Provide the description, original cost, how long you have had the items, the damage it occurred and the replacement cost if known. Take photographs or record whenever possible. Save all receipts for any money you spend. These receipts are important in showing the insurance company what money you have spent concerning your fire loss. This will help prove you bought things you may want to claim on your income tax forms.

If you do not have insurance
Emergency assistance, including temporary shelter, food, clothing, eye glasses, and medicine is available through the:

Canadian Red Cross
29 Paramount Drive
Charlottetown, C1E 0C6
Tel: (902) 628-6262

Back to Top


The Fire Department will contact Red Cross for disaster relief services immediately when needed which may be available for 72 hours if you cannot stay in your home. Your insurance company will review your policy with you if long-term housing is required. Very often fire restoration may take several weeks to several months to complete. If you must relocate, notify:
Employer, Credit Card Companies, Utility Companies, Post Office, Family, Schools, Banks

Make sure to keep up your household payments even after the fire. This could include your mortgage, telephone, etc. If you are renting or leasing, check on your lease agreement for arrangements.

Whenever possible, be sure to take with you all your important info, medications, eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc, and any valuables you may have.

If you have pets comfort them. Scared animals often react by biting or scratching. Handle your pet calmly try to leave pets with a family member, friend, or veterinarian. Keep your pets out of the house until the cleanup is complete. Keep them safe.
Documents are very important to your well-being and should be kept in a fire-proof safe that is UL rated for a minimum of 1 hour. This is usually enough time for firefighters to extinguish a fire. You will then be able to recover your documents should a fire occur. If not, you may need to replace the following because of the fire.
Salvage ideas after the fire
Foods that are exposed to chemicals should be thrown away. Wash canned goods and jars in detergent and water. If the labels come off, mark on the can what it is. Avoid using canned goods that are bulged, dented or rusted.

If food from your refrigerator or freezer has an off-flavor or odor when it is prepared it should be discarded and not eaten. If home freezer has stopped running, you can still save the frozen food:

  • Keep the freezer closed.
  • Your freezer has enough insulation to keep food frozen for one to two day.
  • If there are ice crystals in the vegetables you can refreeze.
  • Do not refreeze vegetables if they have thawed completely.
  • Meats may by refrozen if ice crystals remain but cook thoroughly before eating.
  • If your food has thawed: Fruit and vegetables, as well as foods stored in permeable containers like cardboard and screw-topped jars and bottles should be thrown out.

In most cases the service cleaners will look after this, however here are just a few ideas

Refrigerators and freezers: 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. Place an open box of baking soda or a piece of charcoal in the refrigerator to absorb odor.

Cooking utensils/dishes: Soak dishes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 4.5 liters of water for 30 minutes prior to washing. Wash dishes, pots, pans and flatware, in hot, soapy water. Rinse in hot water. Polish copper and brass with special polish, salt sprinkled on a piece of lemon, or salt sprinkled on a cloth saturated with vinegar. Dishwashers are excellent for cleaning dishes.

Clothing: Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing.

  • 4-6 teaspoons trisodium phosphate (can be purchased in paint stores)
  • 1 cup Lysol or any household chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon warm water
  • Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clean water, dry well

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.

Leather: Dry leather goods away from sun and heat. Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth. Stuff purses and shoes with newspaper to retain shape. Leave suitcases open. When leather is dry, clean with saddle soap. Rinse leather & suede jackets in cool water and dry away from the sun.

Books: Books can be dried by placing them on end with pages separated. Then they should be piled and pressed to prevent the pages from crinkling. Alternating drying and pressing will help prevent mildew until the books are thoroughly dry. If your books are very damp, sprinkle cornstarch or talc between the pages, leave for several hours, then brush off. A fan turned on the books will help them dry.

Photographs: Preserving damaged photographs is often very important to victims of fires.If photographs are not burned they can usually be saved. Do not peel apart photographs that have stuck together. Soak the photos in clear, clean water and rinse carefully. Let stuck photographs separate on their own. If they stay damp they can be damaged by mold.

If you have quantities of wet photos, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them, then thaw them and wash them a few at a time. After washing the photos, dry them image side up on a smooth hard surface like a glass table or kitchen counter.

Painted walls:
To remove soot and smoke from walls, mix together: 4-6 tablespoons tri-sodium phosphate and 4.5 liters of water. Use rubber gloves and goggles. Wash a small area at a time working from the floor up. Do ceilings last. Rinse thoroughly. Repaint when completely dry.

Wallpaper: Heat and ventilate room for several days to dry the plaster and paper. If mildewed paper is washable, wipe it with a soapy cloth. Rinse clean with clear water.

Floors: Use flax soap on wood and linoleum floors. Strip and re-wax.

Wall-to-wall carpet: A wet/dry vacuum or water extractor carpet cleaning machine is suggested. Follow manufacture’s instructions For information on cleaning and preserving carpets, call your carpet dealer or installer or a qualified carpet cleaning professional.

Rugs: Let rugs and carpets dry out thoroughly. Vacuum. Shampoo, lay flat to dry.

Mildew: To remove mildew, wash stain with soap and water. Rinse well and allow to dry. If stain remains, use lemon juice and salt.

Wood Furniture: Do not dry your furniture in the sun. The wood will warp. Clear off all dirt, scrubbing wood furniture or fixtures with a stiff brush and a cleaning solution. Remove drawers. Let furniture dry thoroughly.

If mold forms, wipe the wood with a cloth soaked in a mixture of borax dissolved in hot water.

Remove white spots of wood surface with a cloth soaked in a solution of 1/2 cup household ammonia and 1/2 cup water. Then wipe the surface dry and polish with wax.

Electrical Appliances
Appliances that have been exposed to water or steam should 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 your gas or power is turned off during the fire, call the electric or gas company to restore these services – do not try to do it yourself. A licensed plumber or electrician must make repairs before service can be restored.

Locks and hinges
Take lock apart wipe with kerosene and oil.
Squirt machine oil through the bolt opening or keyhole and work the knob to distribute the oil if locks cannot be removed. Thoroughly clean and oil hinges.

Helping after a fire
Take meals to the victims of fire. The next couple of weeks are going to be a blur for them. Not having to worry about food is a serious plus. This will be extremely appreciated. Fast food only goes so far.

Gift certificates are one of the best things you could possibly give. Gift certificates can be used right away and people will be very grateful for them.

If the victim has a pet and you have a place for it to stay while they are in a hotel it would be better for the pet and the owner. Unless they need to comfort one another, being locked up in a hotel room is no fun for anyone.

Destroyed currency
Please contact Bank of Canada for information on burnt money.

Phone: 1.800.303.1282
Email: [email protected]

Currency Production and Services, Bank of Canada
234 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G9

Note: The Bank only redeems Canadian bank notes. We do not accept coins or foreign currency.

Mutilated notes show signs of excessive damage from fire or water, missing pieces, or other forms of deterioration. The Bank offers a redemption service for contaminated and mutilated notes. The notes will be carefully examined by an experienced and specially equipped team at our Ottawa laboratory. All claims will be assessed in accordance with the bank’s reimbursement policy

Submitting Contaminated and Mutilated Notes to the Bank of Canada
Complete the contaminated and mutilated notes claim form.

Handle With Care: Mutilated notes should be carefully packaged to prevent further deterioration during transportation.

Packaging Mutilated Notes: Do not handle bank note fragments more than is absolutely necessary, Pack bank note carefully in fragile packing material (such as bubble wrap) and place it in a secure container.

If the bank note was mutilated while in a purse, wallet, box, or other container, Leave it there if you can, If necessary, remove fragments from the container, and send the container also.

Remove anything in the mutilated bank notes if it is possible.

If the bank note is flat, leave it flat, if note is rolled leave it rolled.

Starting over
If your home had a home fire sprinkler system, you will find little damage from flames, heat, smoke, and water. If not, and you plan to rebuild your home, now is the time to think about installing sprinklers into your home. Contact your local sprinkler installers for a quote. Install hardwired smoke alarms in every sleeping room and on every level of your home. Plan your escape and practice it.