A fire can cause serious damage, and in some cases total loss. The building and items inside may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke, and water.

You may find items that the fire did not burn but are now ruined by smoke and soggy with water used to put out the flames. Anything that you want to save or reuse will need to be carefully cleaned.

Firefighters may have cut holes in the walls and/or roof of the building to look for hidden flames or to let out heat and smoke. Cleanup will take time and patience.

  • General Safety Tips: USE CAUTION!
    Sorting through/cleaning burn debris is not recommended for health reasons.
  • Hazardous chemicals and unsafe conditions may be present.
  • Be aware of slip, trip, fall, and puncture hazards.
  • If you sort through possessions, wear sturdy shoes (steel toes and steel shanks are recommended), a properly fitting N95 mask, and protective gear.
  • Anything in contact with ash should be sanitized and cleaned.
  • Inspect propane tanks for visible damage before turning on.

Contact your service provider if you suspect your propane tank is damaged.
It is important to understand the risk to your health and safety even after the fire is out. The soot and dirty water left behind could make you ill. Do not eat, drink, or breathe in anything that has been near the flames, smoke, soot, or water used to put the fire out.

Be very careful if you touch any fire-damaged items and be sure to wash your hands afterwards. Ask the advice of the fire department, local building officials, your insurance agent, and restoration specialists before starting to clean or make repairs.

Fire ash may be irritating to the skin, nose, and throat, and may cause coughing and/or nose bleeds. Fine particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, may aggravate asthma, and may make it difficult to breathe.

  • Refrain from cleaning ash and fire debris until professional hazardous material cleanup services are secured. Seek professional damage and debris removal/restoration services.
  • When exposure to dust or ash cannot be avoided, use a well-fitted NIOSH-certified respirator N-95 mask.
  • Children should not be in the vicinity while cleanup is in progress. Even if care is exercised, it is easy to stir up ash that may contain hazardous substances.
  • It is best to not allow pets in burned areas due to the potential risk to their health and their ability to spread ash and debris.
  • Clean ash off house pets and other domesticated animals if they have been in contaminated areas.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to avoid skin contact. Goggles are recommended. Contact with wet ash may cause chemical burns or irritation on skin. Change your shoes and clothing prior to leaving the burned area to avoid tracking ash into your car, home, etc.

Cleaning and Sanitizing
Cleaning and sanitizing your household after an emergency is important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.

Clean and sanitize floors, sinks, hard plastic toys, and tools in a four-step process:

  • Wash with soap and hot, clean water.
  • Rinse with clean water.
  • Sanitize by immersing in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/240 mL) of unscented household chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water for 1 minute.
  • Allow to air dry.

Please remember the following safety tips when cleaning:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner.
  • Wear rubber or other non-porous boots, gloves, and eye protection.
  • Try not to breathe in product fumes. If using products indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter.