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After the Fire
The Charleston Fire Department would like to express its sympathy for your property loss because of a fire/natural disaster at your residence. The emotional trauma of a fire/natural disaster is something you will never forget.

In the days, weeks and months to come, you will face the difficult task of replacing and recovering as much of your loss as possible; cleaning, repairing, and rebuilding of your property; and attempting to resume your normal life as soon as possible. We hope the following information will help guide you through this difficult time.

Unfortunately, there are people and businesses that prey on victims when they are most vulnerable, such as individuals whose homes and property have been destroyed or damaged by fire/natural disaster like yours. We urge you not to sign any contract, or pay money, to any individual or business who says they can "expedite" your insurance claim or provide any other special restoration services. If you are approached by any such individuals please contact your insurance agent or the Charleston Fire Department at 843-720-1981 before signing any agreement or contract.

Do not allow any "inspectors" or "investigators" onto your property without their proper identification. We will, under normal circumstances, conduct our investigation immediately after the fire is out. If a follow up investigation is required, it will be conducted during normal business hours. Our Fire Department investigators will be in fire department uniforms and will arrive in a fire department vehicle or will present department issued credentials. You should ask for identification from any and all investigators. If you should have questions about anyone posing as an inspector or investigator feel free to contact the Charleston Fire Department.

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.

  • Lowcountry Red Cross - (843) 764-2323. This phone is tended by trained volunteers 24 hours a day who can help you assess your immediate needs.
  • If your crisis is not a fire, flood, tornado, or other natural disaster, you may call 211 for agencies that may be able to help with non-disaster events.

    Many tips for salvaging clothing, cooking utensils, documents and papers, electrical appliances, food, rugs and carpets, leather and books, photographs, walls and floors, and wood furniture are attached (below). There is also information for money replacement.

    1. Dispose of all food, beverages, and medicines exposed to fire, smoke or water.
    2. Contents of refrigerators and freezers should be discarded if power supply was interrupted.
    3. Have all wiring, gas lines, and plumbing checked by a qualified person before restoring utilities such as electric, gas or water.
    4. Have your HVAC checked by a service technician before using. Remember to change filters before using and at frequent intervals to remove all air borne soot and contaminants.
    5. Drain water lines and pour RV anti-freeze into drains if temperature is expected to drop below freezing.
    6. Wash house plants with clean clear water, taking care to wash both sides of leaves and stem.
    7. Clean and protect chrome and metal trim with Vaseline™ or other light oil.
    8. Pets that have been exposed to smoke, fire, or heat should be examined by a veterinarian.
    9. If you must relocate, notify the following parties:
         • Family and Friends
         • Employers
         • Children's Schools
         • Mortgage Companies
         • Post Office
         • Utility Companies
         • Insurance Agents
    10. Remain watchful for signs of heat or smoke, a fire can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains.
    11. Be watchful for structural damage from the fire/natural disaster.
    12. Hang furs and leather goods separately at room temperature to air dry. If serious smoke or water damage has occurred consult an expert on best way to clean and treat damage.
    13. Ask your neighbors to watch property. Inform police for extra patrol.

    1. Do not enter any areas with sagging floors or ceilings.
    2. Do not throw away any damaged items without taking inventory and providing documentation.
    3. Do not operate any VCR, video equipment, TV, stereo, computer, or electrical appliance until it has been cleaned and checked. If a dry chemical fire extinguisher was used, vacuum any residue to prevent damage to the appliance.
    4. Do not open your safe/lock box. Safe/lock boxes can hold heat for several hours and if the door is opened contents may ignite with the introduction of fresh air.
    5. Do not use a household vacuum to pick up water, only use a wet vac.
    6. Do not leave wet books, magazines, or other colored items on wet carpet, floors or other surfaces.

    Some of your property damage may have been a result of our efforts to extinguish the fire. When a fire occurs in a building it creates a large amount of very hot gases and smoke. The fire department may open or break windows, cut holes in the roof or walls to vent these hot gases and smoke from the building. This will prevent more damage caused by the gases and smoke and allows us to find the fire and extinguish it quicker. We are trained in proper ventilation techniques and do not make any more openings than necessary. You may find openings in walls and ceilings. These openings were made to find hidden pockets of fire and smoldering embers. These hidden pockets can smolder for hours and suddenly erupt, destroying what is left of your home or business.

    We will do what we can to help you find and remove any valuables. However, as soon as the fire is out we must get our equipment and manpower back in service so we can prepare to respond to our next call. Often, people want to go inside their home or business immediately after the fire/natural disaster, even if it is to just look around. Usually, it is unsafe to allow this and we will not allow you to enter. However, if we feel in our opinion it is safe to enter the building we will escort you inside. If you were alerted to the fire by your smoke detectors, we commend you on having these inexpensive devices. If your smoke detectors did not work, we want to know so we can try to find out why not. Both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive devices proven to save lives and reduce property loss.

    Although it might be obvious, after a fire, our fire investigators need to be thorough in determining the origin and cause of the fire. It is because of this that most fire reports will not be able to be completed in just one day. If you have insurance, your insurance company will request a copy, however, if you require a copy of the initial fire report, it will take up to 14 business days from the date of the fire to be completed. Please contact the Public Information Officer to get a copy of the fire report.

    Again, we are sorry you suffered the devastation of a fire or natural disaster. If you have any questions and/or comments, please call us at (843) 720-1981.

    Salvage and Restoration Tips and Information


    Replacing Lost Vital Documents