Now That The Fire Is Out

The trauma of a fire itself is only surpassed by the shock of realization that comes afterward with the clean-up, repair and replacement.  Broken windows, holes in walls, tarnished appliances and smoky clothes are the physical evidence of an often confusing situation.


Broken windows and holes in roof are necessary for "ventilation".  As a fire burns, it moves upward, then outward and those openings enable Firefighters to limit the amount of eventual damage.  Holes in walls and ceilings are necessary so that the Fire Department can be absolutely sure that all the fire is out and there is no fire "hidden" in walls, ceilings and partitions, that could do further damage to the building when the Fire Department is gone.


The Fire Department will secure the homeowner's property as much as possible.  The Fire Department removes water and debris as well as covering broken windows and ventilation openings with plastic.  The insurance company should be called as soon as possible.  The insurance company will see to it that the house is boarded up or whether utilities can be restored.  Rental property is the responsibility of the owner.  If the property is not insured or if insurance does not cover all losses, contact a lawyer or the Internal Revenue Service for information on tax deduction status.


Mutilated or melted coins are returnable at the nearest Federal Reserve Bank cash department.  Bills, half or more intact, should be taken to the Federal Reserve Bank cash department.  Any mutilated or destroyed bonds are handled by:

U.S. Treasury
Department, Bureau of Public Debt, 200 3rd Street
Parkersburg, W. VA. 26101
Attention: Bond Consultant.

Include name and address(es) on bonds, approximate date or time period purchased, serial numbers if known, and denominations and approximate number of each.


Copies of birth and death certificates can be obtained from the Jefferson County Health Department located at 400 E. Gray Street, Louisville, KY.  Copies of marriage records can be obtained from the Jefferson County Clerk marriage license department located in the Jefferson County Fiscal Court building.  A.F.D.C. and welfare clients should notify their case workers if their I.D. cards have been destroyed.


Foods in cans or jars should be washed in detergent and water.  If labels come off during the process, mark with a grease pencil.  DO NOT USE bulged, dented or rusted cans.

Some freezer food can be saved.

  1. Keep the door or lid closed on the freezer.  Insulation keeps food frozen for one day and possibly up to three days.
  2. Wrap frozen foods in newspapers, blankets or use insulated boxes when moving to another freezer or locker plant.
  3. Do not refreeze vegetables that have completely thawed.

Freezer and refrigerator odor is removable by washing the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or by using one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water.  Open containers of baking soda or a piece of charcoal placed in the appliance often eliminates odors by absorption.


What seems to be an ever-lingering odor can often be washed from clothing.  There are many products on the market and available at retail stores and cleaning product dealers, that will do the job.  A tested recipe for clothing that can be bleached is as follows:

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate (available at chemical supply houses)
  • 1 cup Lysol or household chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon water
  • Mix well, add clothes, rinse with clear water and dry.

Be sure and test colored garments before using any treatment.  Mildew is removable by washing the stain with soap and water, rinsing and drying in the sun.  If the stain is difficult to erase, try lemon juice and salt; one tablespoon pesborate bleach to one pint lukewarm water; or a diluted solution of household chlorine Bleach.


Linoleum must be handled delicately.  When water gets underneath, it can cause odors and warp wood floors. A flooring dealer should be consulted.  Mattresses needed temporarily must be put in the sun to dry and then covered with rubber or plastic sheeting.


Soot and smoke odor can be removed from walls, furniture and floors with products that are available at retail stores or commercial cleaning product dealers.  A tested recipe for removing smoke odor is as Follows;

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of tri-sodium phosphate
  • 1 cup Lysol or chlorine bleach
  • 1 gallon water


Wash walls with the above solution or soap/detergent while wet.  Work from the floor up.  Ceilings should be left until last.  Do not repaint until the walls are completely dry.  Commercial products are available from wallpaper dealers to repair wallpaper.  Washable paper can be washed like any wall, but do not soak the paper.  To prevent streaking work from the bottom to top.


Specific steps are necessary to repair wood furniture or fixtures.

  1. Clear off mud or dirt.
  2. Remove drawers and let dry thoroughly.
  3. Scrub with stiff brush and cleaning solution.
  4. Wet wood decays and molds easily.  Ventilate the room or turn on furnace or air conditioner to dry thoroughly.
  5. Moldy furniture should be wiped with a cloth mixture of water and kerosene or borax dissolved in hot water.
  6. Never dry furniture in the sun.
  7. To remove white spots of film, rub the wood surface with a 4/0 steel polishing wool pad dipped in liquid wax.  Wipe with a soft cloth and buff. All of the above mentioned cleaning agents should be used with caution.


Each year, the American Red Cross responds immediately to more than 67,000 disasters, including house or apartment fires (the majority of disaster responses), hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters.

Although the American Red Cross is not a government agency, its authority to provide disaster relief was formalized when, in 1905, the Red Cross was chartered by Congress to "carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry on measures for preventing the same." The Charter is not only a grant of power, but also an imposition of duties and obligations to the nation, to disaster victims, and to the people who generously support its work with their donations.

Red Cross disaster relief focuses on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs. When a disaster threatens or strikes, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, and health and mental health services to address basic human needs. In addition to these services, the core of Red Cross disaster relief is the assistance given to individuals and families affected by disaster to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently.

The Red Cross also feeds emergency workers, handles inquiries from concerned family members outside the disaster area, provides blood and blood products to disaster victims, and helps those affected by disaster to access other available resources.

American Red Cross - Louisville
Area Chapter
510 E. Chestnut Street
Louisville, KY

For questions about fire safety contact one of our Fire Prevention Inspectors at 574-3731