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If A Wildfire Has Forced You To Leave Your Home, You’ll Likely Be Eager To Return

Returning to your home after a wildfire can be a dangerous task. It’s important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, these insights are designed to help you assess your property, ensure safety, deal with insurance matters, and find the support you need to start rebuilding and healing. Here’s a general guideline on what you should do.

On this page you will find Prioritize Safety Precautions, Recovery Assistance, and Document Damage.

Prioritize Safety Precautions

Wait for Official Clearance

It’s crucial to wait until local authorities give the green light to return. They assess the safety of the area, ensuring there are no immediate hazards like unstable structures, toxic substances, or ongoing fires that could endanger life.

Consider Consulting with Professionals

For major cleanup, repairs, and restoration, it’s often best to consult professionals who specialize in disaster recovery and restoration services. They have the expertise and equipment to safely oversee the aftermath of a wildfire. Such services may be covered by your insurance policy, and your insurance carrier may have a list of preferred providers. Check with your insurance policy, consult your insurance broker or provider, and check with your insurance carrier.

Personal Protection

The air may still hold smoke and ash, which can be harmful to your health. Wear appropriate personal protective clothing such as gloves, sturdy footwear, long-sleeved shirts, and N95 masks to protect yourself from potential hazards like debris, ash, and smoke particles.

Take A Cleanup Kit and Protective Gear

You’ll need supplies to clean your home and protect yourself while inspecting and cleaning your home. Ensure all receipts are kept just in case you need them for insurance claims. Your supply kit should include:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks
  • Rubber or plastic gloves
  • Safety Goggles
  • All-purpose cleaning products
  • Odor-neutralizing products like vinegar and baking soda
  • Bleach
  • Sponges
  • Scrub brushes
  • Odor control products
  • Heavy duty trash bags
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Work towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cleanup suits
  • Rubber boots
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Drinking water (in case the water is not safe for human consumption)
  • Bottled water for cleaning (in case the water is not safe to use)
  • Food to eat (in case the food in your home is spoiled)

Check for Damage

Return home cautiously and during daylight hours. Inspect your property from a safe distance before you enter. Look for signs of structural damage such as sagging roofs, cracked walls, or a compromised foundation. If you notice any of these issues, avoid entering your home until it’s deemed structurally sound by professionals.

Take photos or videos of the damage for insurance purposes. This will help you file accurate claims for your losses.

Assess Utilities

Check gas, electricity, and water lines for damage. If you see any signs of damage or suspect a gas leak, contact your utility company and qualified technicians for inspections and repairs immediately. Do not attempt to turn on utilities yourself.

Check for Hotspots

Search for any hotspots or smoldering embers around your property. Even small, hidden fires can reignite. Thoroughly extinguish them using water or soil. If you’re unsure, report any potential hotspots to your local fire department.

Inspect Food and Water

Examine your food and water supplies for contamination or spoilage. Dispose of any items that may have been exposed to heat, smoke, or contaminants. If in doubt, toss it out. Check with your local water department to ensure that your water source is safe for consumption.

Recovery Assistance

Financial Assistance

Reach out to local agencies and disaster relief organizations for information on financial assistance programs available to you.

Follow Public Health Guidance

Local health authorities may provide guidance on air quality, avoiding certain foods, gutting moldy walls, vector control or taking other precautions after wildfires. Follow local health authorities recommendations closely to prevent illness. Check local authority websites for information.

Rest and Seek Support

Returning home after a wildfire can be emotionally overwhelming. Seek support from friends, family, or counseling services if you find it challenging to cope with the aftermath. Emotional well-being is an important aspect of recovery.

Document Damage

Contact Your Insurance Broker and Your Insurance Company

Notify your insurance broker and your insurance company as soon as possible to initiate the claims process. Provide them with all relevant documentation, pictures, and information on the extent of the damage. Prompt reporting is crucial for a smoother claims process.

Secure Your Property

If your home is standing but damaged, take steps to secure it and prevent additional harm. Cover broken windows and holes in the roof to prevent further damage from weather or animals.

If the structure has burned or has extensive burn damage it will be helpful to have the right tools to begin sorting through damage. Tools that will help include wheelbarrow, digging bar, shovels, and other common hand tools.

As always, keep receipts for any purchases in case they are reimbursable under your insurance policy.

Recovering from a wildfire is a challenging journey, but with careful planning and the right resources, you can restore your property and move forward. Always prioritize safety, seek professional guidance when needed, and remember that you are not alone — your community, along with various support organizations, is here to help you in your recovery.

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