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A Comprehensive Guide To Restoring Your Home And Possessions

A wildfire can cause immense destruction, affecting not just the land but also the lives of those it touches. Attempting to rescue your possessions, pictures, paperwork and other personal things can be disheartening. However, with the right support and information, you can take steps toward recovery and rebuilding. This guide offers practical advice and effective strategies to help you navigate the challenging journey of post-wildfire recovery.

On this page you will find:

Sort Salvageable Items

Begin by salvaging essential documents like birth certificates, passports, and insurance policies. Keep these in a secure, waterproof container. Place valuable jewelry and family heirlooms in a safe location. Sort through your home to determine what can be salvaged and what needs to be discarded. Try to be realistic about what can be restored and what is beyond repair.

Dispose of Waste

Follow local guidelines for disposing of damaged items, debris, and hazardous materials. Do not burn or dispose of materials in a way that could harm the environment.

Document Expenses

Keep track of all your cleanup and restoration expenses, as well as any communication with insurance companies. This will be important for your insurance claims.


Wooden furniture: Wipe down all surfaces with a soft, damp cloth to remove soot and ash. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices. Once dry, apply wood polish to condition the wood. For smoke odor, leave furniture outdoors to air out or use odor-absorbing charcoal.

Upholstered furniture: Vacuum thoroughly including crevices and undersides. Consider professional cleaning for smoke odors that linger. Replace stuffing if damaged.

Leather furniture: Wipe down with a damp cloth and leather cleaning products. Condition with leather moisturizers. May need professional refinishing for smoke damage.

Appliances and Electronics

General Guidance: Unplug and wipe down exterior surfaces with a dry cloth. Use compressed air to blow out vents and ports. Don’t try to turn on until completely dry. If device doesn’t turn on or work properly, may need repair or replacement.

Refrigerators: Check door seals for damage. Clean interior. Replace water filters, wipe down exterior. If not cooling, may need repair.

Ovens: Check functionality and clean interior thoroughly. Replace filters, lightbulbs as needed. Scrub exterior.

Washers/dryers: Clean lint traps thoroughly. Run empty cycle with vinegar to clean interior. Wipe down exterior.

Documents and Photos

Handle with Care: Wear gloves to prevent fingerprints and further damage to documents.

Air-Dry: Lay documents flat on clean surfaces and air-dry them. Do not use heaters or fans, as they may cause further damage. Avoid direct sunlight.

Freezing: For wet or water-damaged documents, you can freeze them to prevent mold growth. Place them in a plastic bag and freeze them until you’re ready to thaw and air-dry them.


Remove Wet Items: Remove waterlogged carpets and flooring immediately to prevent mold growth.

Shampoo carpets and rugs thoroughly: Use carpet shampoo with odor removers and scrub with a brush to lift debris. Vacuum again once dry.
Remove and discard carpet padding: Padding often cannot be saved if soaked. Remove and replace.

Dry Thoroughly: Thoroughly dry carpets and flooring outside in the sun if possible. Use fans and dehumidifiers to speed up the drying process.

Ventilate: Open windows to air out smoke odors from carpet as much as possible.

Professional Cleaning: Consider professional cleaning services for extensive smoke or water damage to carpets and rugs.


Wood Flooring: Wipe with damp mop. Use a hardwood floor cleaner and mop gently. Don’t oversaturate. If surface is damaged, you may need to re-sand and refinish the wood flooring with polyurethane.

Vinyl Flooring: Wash with vinegar and water mixture as this helps cut through smoke film. Rinse repeatedly with clean water to remove residue. Re-wax and buff vinyl flooring to restore shine.

Tile Flooring: Use brushes and cleaning products to thoroughly scrub soot off tile surfaces. Use grout brush and cleaners specially made for grout. You may need to re-grout damaged areas. For porous tiles like slate, limestone and sandstone, steaming can help draw out odor from material.

Textiles and Clothing

Launder: Wash smoke-damaged textiles and clothing in warm water with mild detergent. You may need to repeat this process several times to fully remove soot and odors.

Rinse and Air-Dry: Rinse items thoroughly and air-dry them outdoors. Avoid direct sunlight.

Consult Experts: For valuable or delicate items, consult textile or clothing restoration professionals.

Remember, some items may not be salvageable, especially if they have extensive structural damage or are heavily contaminated. When in doubt, consult with restoration professionals who specialize in fire damage recovery. Additionally, document your losses for insurance claims and consult your insurance provider for guidance on covered items and the claims process.

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