After the Fire

After the Fire: So you’ve had a fire in your home – there aren’t many more experiences more devastating. The Penn Hills & Verona Volunteer Fire Association has provided some tips to help to get your life back to normal.


Why are windows broken or holes cut in the roof?

As a fire burns, it generally moves upwards then outward. Breaking the window and/or cutting holes in the roof (called ventilation) stops the damaging outward movement and enables fire fighters to fight the fire more efficiently, resulting in less overall damage.

Why are holes cut in walls?

This is done so that the fire department is absolutely sure that the fire is completely out, and that there is no fire inside the wall or other hidden places.


  • Fire can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. Be watchful for signs of heat or smoke.
  • If the fire department has turned off or disconnected any of your utilities (water, gas, or electric) do not attempt to turn on or reconnect the utility yourself. All utilities should be checked by the utility company before being used to insure safety.
  • If you have a safe do not attempt to open it immediately after a fire. A safe may hold heat for several hours after a fire. If the safe is opened before the interior has cooled, the entering air combined with the high interior temperatures may cause the contents to burst into flames.
  • If it is winter, and your heat has been turned off, drain all water pipes to prevent freezing and breaking until after the heat is restored.
  • If you are the owner, secure your property against further damage by weather, theft and vandalism. Several local restoration companies are available to help with this, contact your insurance company for more information.
    • Cover holes in the roof or walls.
    • Be sure all windows and doors are locked or secured.
  • If you are a tenant, contact the resident manager, the owner or the owner’s insurance agent. It is the owner’s responsibility to prevent further loss to the site. Protect your belongings by either securing them within the building or by moving them to another location, such as the home of a friend or relative. The insurer may refuse to pay losses that occur from not taking reasonable caution from further loss.

Here’s a check list of documents you will need to replace if they have been destroyed, and who to contact for information on the replacement process.


  • Drivers License – A local notary or the Department of Motor Vehicles in the issuing state.
  • Bank Book – Your bank (as soon as possible)
  • Insurance Policies – Your insurance agent
  • Military Discharge Papers – Veterans Administration, Pittsburgh (412) 281-4233
  • Passport – Local Passport Office (412) 355-5770
  • Birth / Death Certificates – Allegheny County Register of Wills
      • State Office Building
      • Vital Records: 300 Liberty Avenue (412) 565-5113
  • Marriage Licenses – City County Building (412) 355-4230
  • Social Security Administration
  • Medicare Cards 800-234-5772
  • Credit Cards – issuing companies
  • Deeds – Allegheny Co. Recorder of Deeds (412) 355-4226 or the records department of the county which property is located
  • Stocks and Bonds – Issuing Company or your broker
  • Wills – Your lawyer or Register of Wills, etc
  • Medical Records – Your doctor
  • Warranty – Issuing Company
  • Income Tax Records – Internal Revenue Service (1-800-424-1040)
  • Auto Registration Department of Transportation – Bureau of Motor Vehicles
    (412) 565-5670
  • Citizenship Papers – U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
    (412) 644-3356
  • Prepaid Burial Contracts – Issuing Company
  • Animal Registration Papers
  • Food Stamps
  • Medical – Contact Caseworker


Handle burned money as little as possible. Attempt to encase each bill or portion of a bill in plastic wrap for preservation. If money is only half-burned or less, you can take the remainder to your local Federal Reserve Bank for replacement.

Federal Reserve Bank
717 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 261-7800

Mutilated or melted coins can be taken to the Federal Reserve Bank or mailed via FIRST CLASS REGISTERED MAIL to:

Federal Reserve Bank
717 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 261-7800

If your U.S. Savings Bonds have been mutilated or destroyed, write to:
U.S. Treasury Department
Bureau of Public Dept.
Division of Loans and Currency
537 South Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Attention: Bond Consultant

Include name(s) and address(es) on bonds, approximate date or time period when purchased, denominations and approximate number on each.


The National Institute of Fire Restoration (NIFR), a division or the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration, is comprised of contractors and service firms that specialize in the treatment, repair, and restoration of fire, smoke, and related damage.

The following Emergency Tips were compiled by members of NIFR and are based on their wide experience in this field. It is not likely that you will require all procedures listed, so examine your situation and use those steps which common sense dictates.


After fire damage, it is natural to want to clean a building and it’s contents. Timely action can be a great help, but incorrect or delayed action can jeopardize or seriously impede satisfactory restoration.


  • Clean and protect chrome trim on kitchen appliances with a light coating of Vaseline or other oil.
  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose smoke particles from upholstery, drapery and carpet.
  • Open windows for ventilation.
  • Change furnace filter if blower is operating.
  • Empty freezer and refrigerator completely if electricity is off, and prop doors open with a rolled towel or newspaper.
  • Clean and protect smoked bathroom faucets, tub fittings, and towel bars with a light coating of oil.
  • Pour antifreeze in toilet bowls, sinks, and tubs to prevent freezing if heat is off in winter.
  • Wash plants with water on both sides of leaves (water softener helps)
  • Call plumber to drain heating system if heat is off in winter.
  • Remove pets to clean environments.


  • Wipe or attempt to wash walls, ceilings or other absorbent surfaces.
  • Use upholstered furniture if it can be avoided.
  • Use exposed food items, or canned goods that have been subjected to excessive heat.
  • Use TV’s, stereos, or electrical appliances until cleaned and checked.
  • Send smoked garments to an ordinary dry cleaner. Improper cleaning may set smoke and odor.


Water is an essential part of many cleaning processes, but under some circumstances, although it usually cleans, it can damage articles. The harmful effect of water is sharply reduced by prompt and wise action. Some procedures are obvious; others require foresight and experience. This list of Emergency Tips has been compiled from many years of experience in water damage repair and cleaning.


  • Remove as much excess water as possible by mopping and blotting.
  • Wipe water from wood furniture after removal of lamps and tabletop items.
  • Remove or prop up wet upholstery cushions for even drying (check for possible bleeding)
  • Place aluminum foil, china saucers or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting.
  • Turn on air conditioning for maximum drying in summer; open windows to speed up drying in winter.
  • Open drawers and cabinet doors for complete drying (do not force, however)
  • Remove valuable oil paintings and art objects to a safe place.
  • Blot wet carpeting with clean white towels.
  • Open suitcases and luggage to dry, in sunlight if possible.
  • Punch small holes in sagging ceilings to relieve trapped water (don’t forget to place pans beneath)
  • Leave wet fabrics in place; dry as soon as possible. Hang furs and leather goods to dry separately at room temperature.
  • Leave books, magazines, or other colored items on wet carpets or floors.
  • Use your household vacuum to remove.
  • Use TV’s or other appliances while standing on wet carpet or floors, especially not on wet concrete floors.
  • Turn on ceiling fixtures if ceiling is wet, and keep out of rooms where ceilings are sagging from retained water.


Although smoke and soot may seem to be identical, experienced professionals recognize the important differences and appropriate emergency action can help in restoring walls and furnishings damaged by soot. Wrong action can make restoration more difficult and could greatly delay your “return to normal”. These Emergency Tips can increase the chances for prompt and successful restoration.


  • Change furnace filter.
  • Cover upholstery with clean sheets before use.
  • Tape doubled pieces of cheesecloth over air registers with masking tape.
  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose soot particles from upholstery, drapes and carpeting.


  • Attempt to clean walls or ceilings.
  • Use do-it-yourself home carpet or upholstery cleaners.


Further questions can be directed to the Office of the Penn Hills Fire Marshal at (412)342-1192

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