Find Out What You Need to Know to Prevent a Burned Home During This Time of Year … As Well as What to do if you do Suffer a House Fire!
The American Red Cross says that 47,000 house fires occur during the winter holidays.
Many of those fires, at least one out of every 22, are caused by Christmas trees.
Another common cause of holiday fires is candles with candle-caused fires occurring four times as frequently during this time of the year.
No matter the cause, holiday fires typically due extensive damage resulting in $554 million in property damage annually, according to the American Red Cross.
Following are some tips to help you avoid suffering a holiday fire as well as guidance for what to do if you are among the many unlucky house fire victims this holiday season.
First, to avoid house fires
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm – this alone can decrease the chances of a serious house fire by nearly 50%
- Place Christmas trees and candles at least 3 feet from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters and radiators
- Buy flame retardant metallic or artificial Christmas trees
- Make sure a real Christmas tree has plenty of water – needles should be fresh and green and not easily broken
- Carefully examine light strings and other holiday decorations to ensure they are in good working order and are not a fire risk
- Do not use frayed extension or electrical cords
- Unplug the Christmas tree lights and other holiday decorations when leaving the home
- Never place lit candles near the Christmas tree
- Always extinguish candles when leaving a room or going to sleep
- Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove top
Second, if you have suffered a house fire
The first step, after calling the fire department of course, is to contact your insurance agent right away.
Step 1 – Contact Insurance Agent
This is important to do because all insurance policies require the policyholder to notify the company as soon as possible following a house fire. Prompt notification allows the company to quickly inspect the damaged property.
Most insurance companies offer a toll-free number that can be used 24/7 to report a house fire.
Reporting a fire quickly doesn’t just benefit the insurance company, it carries other benefits as well. For example, it gets the process moving along so that your claim can be paid out as fast as possible.
Step 2 – Secure Your Property
After the fire has been extinguished and the fire department has left you need to begin securing your property. This step involves such actions as boarding up open areas like doors and windows and covering damaged areas with a tarp.
A word of caution: Don’t try to turn off utilities by yourself. The fire department should have handled that while they were at your house. If you have a question about something, contact them.
Step 3 – Study Your Insurance Policy
One of the best things you can do following a house fire is to get very familiar with your insurance policy. Read the policy thoroughly and, if you have any questions about it, call and ask your agent to clarify the issues.
When studying the policy, be sure to pay particular attention to the Conditions section to better understand what is covered and what you need to do to comply with the policy.
If your policy was damaged in the fire, your agent can provide you with another copy.
Step 4 – Have the Damage Inspected by an Expert
There should be inspectors in your area who specialize in dealing with fire damage. Contact one and have him or her inspect your house so that you can fully understand the extent of damage sustained by your house.
Unfortunately, house fire damage often goes beyond what is just visible to the naked eye. For example, there could be unseen smoke damage to the property, including to the flooring, the walls, the furniture, the air ducts and more.
Smoke damage can be very difficult, and very expensive, to get rid of so you need the opinion of an expert as to how much there is and what removing it entails.
Smoke damage can also be hazardous to human and pet health so it needs to be removed promptly, no matter the cost. That also means the workers you hire need to be trained and have proper equipment to remove it. Needless to say this type of work can get expensive.
Step 5 – Decide Whether to Rebuild or Sell
Once you have an understanding of the damage involved, the next step is to decide whether you want to repair the damage and either stay in the home or sell it.
Most homeowners opt to rebuild but many come to regret that decision due to the cost and difficulty that often come with the rebuilding process.
As we mentioned, not all house fire damage may be readily visible so when the rebuild process starts additional damage could be discovered. For example, there may be unseen structural damage or unseen air duct damage that must be dealt with.
The success of the rebuild process can also depend on the quality of the contractor hired. Many contractors fall behind schedule or use poorly trained workers who then make insufficient repairs.
You must be very careful in your selection of a contractor to ensure your house gets the proper repair work it needs. But if you select a high quality contractor who has a lot of jobs that could cause your project to fall behind schedule, particularly if they have a higher value project going on at the same time.
To select the best contractor, talk to your insurance agent and any friends or relatives who have used contractors in the past. You can also study contractors online and read their testimonials.
Another Option for Repairing a Burned Home
Rather than go through an expensive and time-consuming repair process, many homeowners are choosing to sell their house in “as is” condition to a company like We Buy Fire Damaged Houses.
We Buy Fire Damaged Houses has built a strong reputation in the marketplace for buying houses burned in a fire for a great price. You can then use the money from the sale to buy a new house.
To learn much more about We Buy Fire Damaged Houses or to talk to them about buying your fire damaged house, fill out the short form below.