Fire Damage

Quick Summary

Fire damage can have severe consequences to your property, health and well-being. Fire prevention helps keep you safe, but some fires are beyond your control. Fortunately, if a fire damages your home, restoration technicians can take immediate action to keep you safe and repair your home.

Fire Damage Risks

Residential building fires are responsible for thousands of deaths within local communities, and cause more than $8 billion in property loss each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. But even after the fire goes out and the immediate danger is resolved, there are many fire damage risks you need to be aware of.

Fires can threaten your life, while lingering fire damage can threaten your health in the following ways:

  • Smoke and soot are hard on the lungs and can lead to respiratory issues, including asthma, difficulty breathing, bronchitis and even heart attack
  • Long-term fire damage exposure can lead to strokes, heart disease and cancer
  • Fire damage can irritate your skin and eyes, causing a persistent itchiness that may resist treatment

Many people also struggle with the mental stress of recovering after fire damage. It can be emotionally challenging to deal with the loss of your home, property or possessions. It’s normal for Americans to struggle with shock, anger, hopelessness and even depression after a fire.

Even the process of restoring and replacing your property can be stressful, putting your mental and emotional health at risk while you try to rebuild what you have lost. Fortunately, fire restoration companies can help you get back on your feet after a fire has damaged your home.

Fire Damage Causes

Fire damage is caused by property fires, and fires can start in many ways. The most common causes of house fires are cooking and cooking appliances, heating, carelessness, smoking, open flames and electrical malfunction. Although less common, arson can also be responsible for fire damage. In some cases, the cause of a fire cannot be determined at all.

Cooking Appliances

Cooking is the number one cause of residential fires in the United States, responsible for close to 200,000 fires every year. 

Cooking fires are also the most likely fire condition to lead to injury. While fatalities are not common with cooking fires, it’s most likely to occur when cooking appliances are left unattended.

Cooking-related fires are most likely to occur on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Cooking appliances that are improperly used or maintained can quickly result in a fire. It’s estimated that two-thirds of cooking fires occur when igniting cooking appliances or food, while unattended cooking appliances are also common culprits.


Smoking is responsible for thousands of fires, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths every single year. 

Smoking fires are most likely to originate in living rooms, bedrooms or family rooms when people smoke in the comfort of their home.

You can prevent smoking fires by:

  • Always smoking outdoors
  • Using a deep ashtray
  • Keeping lit cigarettes away from flammable materials, including vegetation
  • Never disposing of butts in shrubs, grass or other material that could easily ignite

Never leave a lit cigarette unattended. Unattended cigarettes, cigars and joints can quickly ignite dry surfaces and cause significant fire damage.

Electrical Fires

Electrical fires are caused when an electric device or the electrical wiring in your home fails. It can be caused by electrical distribution equipment, such as wiring, cords and plugs, lighting appliances or other electronic devices.

Electrical fires are most likely to originate in the bedroom, attic or walls of your home.

Most electrical fires appear to occur spontaneously, without warning, but they can be prevented. You should always hire a ticketed electrician to perform work in your home and ensure it’s up to code. Don’t overload outlets or sockets and replace any appliances or electronics with fraying cords or exposed fires.

Responding to Fire Damage

A fire may make you feel like you’ve lost control, but there are several actions you can take when responding to a fire’s destruction.

Stay Safe

You must keep your family and yourself safe after a fire. If the fire is severe, fire authorities may instruct you to stay out of your home, and it’s essential that you listen to these instructions. Always use good judgment, and don’t do anything that could jeopardize your safety.

Call Your Family

Let your support system know that a fire has occurred so they can help you through the process. Family can often ease the burden of finding a place to say and arranging temporary child or pet care.

Call Your Insurance Company

Find out what your insurance company needs from you to begin the claim process and confirm your coverage details. Start taking inventory of property or belongings that have been damaged and destroyed. Take photos if it’s safe to do.

Call A Fire and Water Damage Restoration Company

Fire and water damage restoration technicians can help you restore your home and make it safe to re-enter. Find a local trusted leader in restoration as soon as possible.

Arrange Accommodations

You may need an alternate place to stay after a fire. Many fire response teams can recommend places for you to stay, but it’s important to find accommodations quickly. Remember, you may need to make separate arrangements for your pets.

Take Care Of Your Health

A fire can take its toll on your mental and physical health.

Be sure to take proper health and safety precautions after a house fire:

  • Seek grief counseling
  • Receive medical care
  • Schedule a check-up to test for smoke inhalations
  • Take your pets to the vet

After a fire, take the time to look after yourself and your family.

Fire Damage Restoration Process

During the restoration process, technicians focus on assessing the full fire damage situation and restoring your possessions that were damaged by smoke or fire. The goal is to help you keep as many of your belongings and as much of your existing home as possible.

Fire damage restoration includes several steps:

1. Determine Your Home Is Safe

Fire and water damage restoration companies will perform a fire damage assessment and check for structural damage and other hazards before entering your home. Restoration companies also work with fire departments to determine the safety of a building.

If the house is unsafe, fire restoration technicians will implement immediate board-up and perform roof tarp services to keep people safe and prevent further damage to the home.

2. Minimize Smoke & Soot Damage

Smoke damage can worsen as the smoke from a fire settles, while lingering soot can cause stains. Smoke damage restoration begins by cleaning the air with air movers and air scrubbers. Specialized cleaning equipment and products will be used for the removal of smoke and odors and to prevent further damage caused by soot from settling into your home’s surfaces.

3. Remove Soot and Other Debris

Fire and water restoration companies will then remove the soot and other debris from your home, furniture, upholstery, appliances and other surfaces using brooms and vacuums.

4. Relocate Personal Belongings

Any personal belongings that can be salvaged will be moved to safe locations where they can also be restored, if necessary. At this point, you may also wish to send your belongings to other professionals for further cleanings, such as a fabric cleaning technician to care for your furniture.

5. Remove Water From Firefighting

Firefighting also results in your home undergoing a water emergency, leading to not just fire damage, but also water damage to your home.

Fire and water damage specialists will use air movers and dehumidifiers to remove the water from:

  • Flooring, carpeting and subflooring
  • Walls, including drywall and framing
  • Other impacted surfaces, such as cabinetry, doors and trim

Additional specialized equipment may be required for complete water removal.

6. Deep Clean Your Home

As a final step, the fire and smoke restoration technicians will perform a deep clean of your home with commercial cleaners that may consist of spray cleaners, shampoos and stain removers. Certified technicians follow a specific cleaning procedure set forth by the restoration industry.

Fire Damage Repair

Fire damage repair will be required if there has been a large size disaster, and your home can’t be restored. For example, structurally damaged homes will need to be repaired before you can safely move back in.

Any element of your home that isn’t restored after the restoration process will need to be repaired.

If you require fire repair, you may need to hire a contractor to reconstruct your home’s structure and other damaged components. While restoration professionals are experts at removing soot and smoke from your belongings, they don’t typically perform construction or home contracting services.

Some larger companies may have both fire damage repair and restoration divisions. Working with a company that offers both services can help streamline and simplify your recovery experience.

In some cases, you may be able to complete smaller repair projects on your own without hiring a professional. However, even handy people will benefit from hiring a professional to help alleviate stress during an already difficult time.

Fire Damage Health Risks

House fires pose both immediate and long-term health risks that can harm you and your family.

Smoke inhalation and chemical exposure present immediate risks after a fire. Homes today contain many toxic substances, which become airborne during a fire. Therefore, anyone who is near a fire or inhales smoke must be tested for adverse side effects.

Anyone exposed to fire is at risk, but seniors, children, pets and people with preexisting health conditions are most likely to suffer from side effects.

People who stay in fire-damaged areas can experience several additional health issues, aggravated by the smoke, soot and other debris left behind by a fire. Headaches and respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis and coughing are common side effects.

The residual effects from fire can also aggravate your eyes and skin, leading to vision problems and skin irritation. In some cases, lotions and eye drops will not alleviate the symptoms, while ongoing itching can lead to secondary damage to your health, including vision loss and skin infections.

Fire Damage Prevention

Sadly, in many cases, house fires could have been preventable. Many house fires are caused by negligence and moments of thoughtlessness when cooking, smoking or using electricity. Therefore, simple home fire safety can save your life.

Never leave a potential fire hazard unattended.

Whether you’re cooking on the stove, lighting a candle or plugging in a portable space heater, staying alert in your home will keep you safe. You should also teach your children that fire is a tool and can never be used as a toy, while keeping matches, lighters and other ignition sources out of reach.

Install and maintain ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms in your home.

Alarms significantly improve your family’s chances of surviving an unexpected fire. Smoke alarms help you detect fires as soon as possible, giving you more time to react.

Hiring Fire Damage Restoration Professionals

A fire in your home can be devastating, but you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Licensed and experienced restoration professionals will have your family’s best interests at heart. Most companies provide emergency services for fast response in these difficult times.

With the right professionals and comprehensive insurance plans, you can recover from a fire quickly and seamlessly. Many technicians offer a free claims process, where they work directly with insurance companies and help you complete your insurance paperwork. When hiring a company, be sure to ask for testimonials or check out online reviews to familiarize yourself with what to expect.

Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

10 References
  1. U.S. Fire Administration. (2020). Residential Building Fire Trends (2009-2018).
  2. American Psychology Association. (2013). Recovering emotionally after a residential fire.
  3. National Fire Protection Association. Top fire causes.
  4. National Fire Protection Association. Cooking.
  5. National Fire Protection Association. Smoking.
  6. National Fire Protection Association. Electrical.
  7. Canadian Red Cross. Guide to Fire Recovery.
  8. American Red Cross. Recovering After a Fire.
  9. New York State. (2020). Exposure to Smoke from Fires.
  10. Department of Homeland Security. (2020). Home Fires.
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