Inspecting Your Property After a Wildfire

While any wildfire victim wants to return to their property to inspect damages as soon as possible after a fire, it is important to wait until the authorities say it is safe to re-enter the area. One of the worst things about a wildfire evacuation is the uncertainty over what damage the fire caused your home and property, if any. Was the home damaged? Was it destroyed? Are any personal items salvageable?

These are questions wildfire victims want to answer as quickly as possible. However, after local authorities say it is safe to re-enter your property area there are some tips to be mindful of as you begin inspecting your property. You should always try to inspect the property during daylight hours and make sure you bring the proper clothing and equipment which are discussed below.

  • Stay out of the damaged home until fire authorities say it is safe to re-enter.
  • If the fire department or building inspector have placed any color-coded sign on your home, do not enter the home until you get additional information regarding the meaning of the sign.
  • Prior to entering your home, inspect the outside area for downed power lines, broken gas lines, any cracks in the foundation of the home and damage to any of the weight bearing portions of the structure.
  • If you are unable to open the door, which is common due to the expansion that can occur due to the immense heat, do not try to force the door open. You should try to enter some other way such as a window.
  • When inside check for the smell of natural or propane gas or the hissing sound made by escaping gas. If you observe either, leave immediately and call the fire department.
  • Quickly search the home for any remaining embers or smoke, including the attic. It is very important that the attic be checked as it is a common location for smoldering embers.
  • If you have a propane tank turn off all valves. Do not attempt to use the tank until the system has been checked for safety.
  • Ventilate the home by opening windows and doors if the weather is dry.
  • Before inspecting any appliances for water or fire damage, disconnect the appliances from the electrical outlet.
  • Take extensive photographs of the inside and outside of home before any clean-up or repair work has occurred. Take photographs of each and every room in the home, even if it does not appear to be damaged.
  • If the ceiling is sagging it likely got wet during fire suppression attempts. Usually such damage cannot be repaired and must be replaced.
  • During the inspection if you observe sparks or frayed wires or smell an electrical type burning, then immediately turn off the main fuse or breaker.
  • If the water pipes are damages, turn off the water at the main water valve and request a plumber.
  • If you purchase any items to assist in the cleanup of your property, save all receipts for reimbursement by your insurer.