Dealing with the aftermath of a fire incident is stressful and very emotional. Fires are probably the most challenging home disasters that can cause a total loss.
However, there are small-scale fires that cause partial physical damage to your property. After the fire has been put out, homeowners are often left to clear up the remains.
If the fire was quite extensive, some might have to hire professional trash removal services.
Whether you do it alone or hire professional services, you’ll have to make difficult decisions about what to salvage and what to throw away. Obviously, discarding household items with a lot of sentimental value is difficult. However, you should dispose of the following items after fire damage for a safe recovery.
Non-Perishable Food Items
Food safety after fire damage is a serious issue. You should discard any non-perishable food items exposed to smoke, heat, and firefighting chemicals.
While it is obvious that opened containers and food items stored in permeable materials, such as thin plastic bags and cardboard, should be discarded, most people aren’t sure about non-perishable foodstuffs stored in jars and cans.
While sealed food items may appear untouched, they are not safe for consumption, especially if they were overly exposed to heat from the fire.
High temperatures can activate bacteria that initiate food spoilage. As such, canned items will have an undesirable taste, even if the can or jar is intact.
Toxic fumes released during combustion also penetrate sealed aluminum cans and glass jars.
Therefore, you should thoroughly inspect your kitchen for heat, water, smoke, and firefighting chemical damage. Dispose of food items, whether sealed or unsealed, if you suspect they were close to these contaminants.
Charred food items and rusting or bulged cans are telltale signs that these items should be thrown away.
Perishable Food Items Left at Room Temperature for Long
In most cases, frozen or refrigerated food items are salvageable after fire incidents.
Even if there is no electricity for some time, an air-tight fridge can keep frozen food at a safe temperature for more than four hours. If your refrigerator didn’t sustain any damage from the fire incident, assess the condition of stored food items carefully.
You should discard food items if you notice any of the following;
- If the fridge smells smoky
- If the food items have any odd or foul odor
- If soot visibly penetrated the refrigerator
- If the fridge lost power and food items stayed in temperatures of more than 40 degrees for more than two hours.
- If the food doesn’t feel cold and there are no ice crystals
While you can disinfect and clean fabrics, such as beddings and clothing, after a fire incident, it isn’t recommended. Soot and smoke from a fire contain chemicals that irritate the skin on contact.
Besides, these chemicals are airborne and can easily be inhaled if you come close to these items.
Inhaling these chemicals can cause respiratory problems and other conditions. Therefore, you should discard textile items after a fire for safety purposes, even if they didn’t sustain serious burns.
Note that any clothing and textile in a building engulfed by fire will retain the smell, regardless of thorough they are cleaned.
Apart from clothing, large textiles, such as beddings, drapes, rugs, and carpets, should also be disposed of. These items absorb the smell of smoke, soot, and firefighting chemicals. Since they are very large for proper cleaning, you should discard them.
The potency of most drugs is affected by high heat, smoke/soot, water, and firefighting chemicals.
If you have any drugs in your home, their effects on the body are altered by these contaminants. Therefore, instead of using them, you should dispose of all your medications safely and ask for a new prescription from your physician.
Cosmetics and Toiletries
Like medicine, cosmetics and toiletries contain minerals and chemicals that are affected by high temperatures. Extinguishing water and chemicals used by firefighters also contaminate and destroy these items.
Even if your cosmetics and toiletries look fine after a fire incident, they should be discarded.
After fire damage, most people look for ways of saving money, especially after losing a lot to the fire. Some might be tempted to reclaim everything that survives the fire, which is risky.
High temperatures brought by fire affect the composition of most household items, including cosmetics and toiletries, even without visible signs. Affected products can damage your hair and skin.
Furniture and Mattresses
Like clothes, furniture items, and mattresses hold on to the smell of smoke, soot, and chemicals used to extinguish the fire for long.
That aside, these items are structurally compromised by heat or flames. If you can’t be certain about the extent of fire damage to these items, you should toss them.
Electrical items are probably the most expensive damage resulting from the fire incident. While you can salvage some items, others cannot be used after the fire incident.
You shouldn’t use small electrical appliances, entertainment systems, and other devices until they are thoroughly inspected for possible heat and water damage.
If you are not sure about the condition of these items, you should discard them to avoid the risk of starting another fire incident.
Any Plastic Items
All plastic items should be discarded after a fire incident. Plastic can easily catch fire and melt.
Burning plastic also produces a bad smell and can absorb smoke or soot, even from distant fires. Therefore, these items should be disposed of, even if they appear visibly untouched.
The Bottom Line
Serious fire incidents rarely leave anything to be salvaged. However, hardwood floors, metal, glass, and other fireproof items can be salvaged from a small-scale fire.
While the decision to discard some items depends on the owners’ discretion, you shouldn’t compromise some items while exposing your health to risks. Discard any items you aren’t sure of their safety.