What to do after a Home Fire

What do I do now?

Do not go back into your home until the Fire Department allows it.
Contact your insurance agent. Contact your insurance company right away and ask them what to do first. Talk with your insurance company about how to learn the value of your home and property. There are companies that specialize in cleaning and restoring your personal items. Ask your insurance company for recommendations of companies you can trust. Make sure you know if you or your insurance company will pay for the cleaning. When you contact the company, be sure to ask for a cost estimate in writing.
If you do not have insurance, your family and community might help you get back on your feet. Organizations that might help include:

  • American Red Cross (ARC).
  • Salvation Army.
  • Religious organizations
  • Public agencies, such as the public health department.
  • Community groups.
  • State or municipal emergency services office.
  • Nonprofit crisis-counseling centers.

Take care of yourself and family

Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the ARC or the Salvation Army. They will help you find food, clothing, medicine and a place to stay.

You have a big job ahead of you. Get plenty of rest and ask for help. Do not try to do it all alone.

Help your pets

If you have pets, find and comfort them. Scared animals often react by biting or scratching. Handle them carefully. Try to leave pets with a family member, friend or veterinarian if you are visiting or cleaning your damaged home. Keeping your pets out of the house until the cleanup is complete will keep them safe.

Security and safety

Do not enter your damaged home or apartment unless the fire department says it is safe.
The fire department will make sure the utility services (water, electricity and gas) are safe to use. If they are not safe, firefighters will have your utilities turned off or disconnected before they leave. Do not try to turn them back on by yourself.

Contact your police department to let them know you will be away from your home. In some cases, you may need to board up windows and doors so no one can get in.


Get in touch with your landlord or mortgage lender. Contact your credit card company to report credit cards that were lost in the fire. Save all of your receipts for any money you spend. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company, and you will need them to prove losses claimed on your tax return.

The First Days of Recovery

The value of your home and personal belongings. Talk with your insurance company about how to learn the value of your home and property.
You may need to replace many of the following documents if they were destroyed or lost in the fire:

  • Driver’s license.
  • Auto registration.
  • Titles and deeds.
  • Insurance policies.
  • Military discharge papers.
  • Passports.
  • Birth, death and marriage certificates.
  • Divorce papers.
  • Social security or Medicare cards.
  • Credit cards.
  • Stocks and bonds.
  • Wills.
  • Medical records.
  • Warranties.
  • Income tax records
  • Citizenship papers.

Replacing money

Handle burnt money as little as possible. Try to place each bill or part of a bill in plastic wrap to help preserve it. If money is only partly burnt — if half or more is still OK — you can take it to your regional Federal Reserve Bank to get it replaced. Ask your bank for the one nearest you.

You can also send the burnt money to the Treasury.

For personal delivery and non-postal couriers, e.g. FedEx/UPS, send to:
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
MCD/OFM, Room 344A
14th and C Streets SW
Washington, DC 20228

Personal deliveries of mutilated currency to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are accepted between the hours of 8-11:30 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays and other closings.

For USPS Delivery, make sure it is mailed “registered mail, return receipt requested” and send to:

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
MCD/OFM, Room 344A
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013

You can find more information about replacing damaged money at www.moneyfactory.gov/submitaclaim.

To replace U.S. savings bonds that have been destroyed or mutilated, go to www.TreasuryDirect.gov/forms/sav1048.pdf and download the FS Form 1048 – Claim for Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed United States Savings Bonds.

Additional requirements
If the bond(s) is mutilated, carefully pack the pieces and submit them with the FS Form 1048. If any registrant is deceased, provide a certified copy of the death certificate.

Send to:
Treasury Retail Securities Site
P.O. Box 214
Minneapolis, MN 55480-0214

Begin saving receipts for any money that you spend related to the fire loss. The receipts may be needed later by the insurance company and to prove any losses claimed on your income tax.

Check with an accountant or the IRS about special benefits for people recovering from fire loss.