After the Fire is Out - A Helpful Guide

If you are reading this page, chances are the West Valley City Fire Department responded to a fire in your residence or business. We hope that the service we provided was satisfactory, and that you have a quick and successful recovery. If we can be of further assistance to you or if you have suggestions of how we might better serve you, please contact us.

Now that the emergency is over, we want to help you in the recovery process. The following information should aid you.

A Word About Fire Department Operations
Fires produce temperatures well over 1200 degrees F., along with smoke and hot gases. At times, it is necessary to eliminate heat, smoke and hot gases before firefighters can successfully extinguish the fire. Ventilation must be accomplished quickly to help reduce fire spread. Often window and door damage, roof holes and access holes are attributed to a quick ventilation process. Walls must be forcibly opened to find “hidden” fires. This allows complete fire extinguishment. After the fire is out, damage may appear unnecessary. However, without the use of these firefighting techniques, the building could suffer total destruction by fire.

Safety is Paramount
Your personal safety is our priority. Once you have made your way out of the burning building you may be suffering from the effects of fire. Assess yourself: burns, injuries, mental state.

Burns, even minor burns, need to be treated immediately. Personal first aid techniques may be used for minor burns. More serious burns should be treated at an emergency room, emergent care center, or by a family doctor. For severe burns, Emergency Responders should be called.

One of the major effects of fire is the lack of oxygen and effects from Carbon Monoxide and other toxic by-products of fire. All, act to impair judgment. You may not realize it, but the possible exposure to toxic by-products of fire and the lack of oxygen as you escape, may impair your ability to think clearly and rationally. Even if you are not affected, others who escaped with you may display an impairment of judgment.

Immediately after the fire is not the best time for making long term decisions.

While Firefighters are on scene of an incident, the building is under their protection and control. As long as a firefighter, investigator or police officer is on the property, they will accompany you, when it is safe to enter the building, on assessment excursions into the damaged area.

Assessing the Damage
Can You Live Or Work In The Building?

Allow time after you re-enter the scene, for proper ventilation in the building. Some toxins may still be trapped in areas of the building and without proper fresh air ventilation, some personal discomfort may be experienced with the following symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, etc. Should symptoms persist, see your doctor.

Property Insurance
If you own or are purchasing the property, contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible. If you are renting or leasing the property, you must contact the owner. Your insurance agent will know what parts of the damage are insured. In some cases they may be able to assist by providing names of reputable contractors who can do restoration to certain elements of the work that are not insured.

If You Cannot Live In The Building
If you’re not able to live or work in the property, remove all valuables. When the fire department releases the property to you, by word or abandon, you become responsible for the security of the property. Securing the doors and windows and other areas against unauthorized entry becomes your responsibility.

Those who have experienced a fire or other disaster may obtain assistance from the local American Red Cross chapter. Upon application to the Red Cross, you can obtain food, clothing, lodging and other services as needs are assessed. A Red Cross Disaster Caseworker will be happy to assist you, and can be reached at 801-323-7000.

If You Have Moved
If you have moved, be sure to notify the Post Office, Water Department,
Bank(s), West Valley City Sanitation Division, Credit Card Companies, Local School District, Social Security Administration, Newspapers, and other companies providing service or sending mail to your address.

Tax Information
Tax information on Disasters, Casualty Losses, and Thefts, Publication 547, is available from the local Internal Revenue Service Office. Check with your accountant for guidance and recommendation.

If the building is structurally damaged to the point of repair, and/or is not habitable, a City Building Inspector must be called to assess. After the building inspection is completed, a permit must be obtained prior to making repairs. Contact the West Valley City Building Inspection Division at 801-963-3283.

Often the Fire Department will have the utility services interrupted or disconnected as a safety precaution and also to prevent further damage to the structure and its contents. Steps to re-establish utility services are:

Electrical - An Electrical Inspector must check the wiring to be sure it is safe before the power can be reconnected. Contact Rocky Mountain Power at 888-221-7070. Remember, have a service person check damp or wet appliances before you operate.

Natural Gas - DO NOT turn the gas back on after an incident. Call 800-323-5517 to have a Questar service person turn on gas and relight appliances for you.

Water - This utility may be turned back on by the resident. Use caution however, the incident may have damaged the plumbing. Hidden leaks may cause further damage when water is re-introduced into the pipes.

Telephone - Contact your telephone or cell phone provider for this service.

Carpet & Rugs
Wall to Wall Carpet - A wet / dry vacuum or water extractor carpet cleaning machine are excellent for this job. These can be rented at most supermarkets or drugstores. They will remove the standing water and dirt. Then add carpet cleaning detergent and clean the carpet per manufactures specifications or as instructed on the machine.

Flooring & Rugs
Let rugs and carpets dry out thoroughly. Throw rugs can be cleaned by beating, sweeping, or vacuuming and then shampooing. Shampoo with a commercial rug shampoo, dry the rugs as quickly as possible by laying them flat and exposing them to a circulation of warm dry air. A fan turned on the rug will speed the drying process. Make sure the rugs are thoroughly dry. Any moisture remaining at the base of the tufts will quickly rot the rug, causing it to fall apart.

When water gets underneath linoleum, it can cause odors and warp the wood flooring. If this happens, remove the entire sheet. If the linoleum is brittle, a heat lamp will soften it so it can be rolled up without breaking. If carefully removed, it can be re-cemented after the floor has completely dried. Small blisters in linoleum can be punctured with a nail and re-cemented if one is careful. Dilute regular linoleum paste thin enough to go through a hand syringe and shoot adhesive through the nail hole. Weigh down the linoleum with bricks or boards. It is usually possible to cement loose tiles of any type. Wait until the floor is completely dry before beginning.

Always read the care label before treating any garments, for proper instructions.

Smoke odor and soot can sometimes be washed from clothing. The following formula will often work for clothing that can be bleached:
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. Tri-Sodium Phosphate
  • 1 cup Lysol or any chloride bleach
  • 1 gallon warm water or ½ cup ammonia to two gallons of water
  • Rinse with clear water
  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning. After washing article, rinse with clear warm water and dry thoroughly.
Preparing Clothing for the Cleaners - Should you have doubts or questions about the cleaning or preparations of clothing, it is wise to contact your local cleaning service.

Leather - Wipe with a damp cloth, then with a dry cloth. Stuff your purses, shoes, etc. with paper to retain shape. Leave suitcase open for airing. Steel wool or a suede brush can be used on suede. We recommend you contact a leather and suede cleaner for information.

Mildew is a mold growth. If it is allowed to continue, it will weaken or rot fabrics.

Ways to Remove Mildew - Wash stain with soap and water. Rinse well and dry. If stain remains, use lemon juice and salt, or a solution of a tablespoon of “perborate bleach” to a pint of lukewarm water, or dilute a solution of household chlorine bleach. Test colored garments before using any treatment.

Combating Odors

This generally is a very complex problem due to the many varied materials on the market today. Manufacturer’s combine several raw materials such as natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, wool, fur, fiber, etc.)

Protect Yourself & Your Property
Refrigerators & Freezers
Sometimes odors are difficult to remove due to the dampness of the insulation which in turn absorbs the odors: however, here are some recommendations:
  1. Defrost and wash all surfaces with water and dishwashing detergent, rinse with two tablespoons baking soda per quart of water, and re-rinse with clear water. Or
  2. Wash with solution of one cup of vinegar to one gallon of water. Or
  3. Wash with solution of one cup household ammonia to one gallon of water.
After one of the alternatives has been used, let the appliance air dry.

Caution - When cleaning or discarding any refrigerator or freezer. Be sure the doors are removed or secured against closing on a child!

If in doubt - Throw it Out!

What to do when the Freezer Stops - How long food will stay frozen depends on:
  1. A full freezer will stay cold many hours longer then a freezer only a quarter full.
  2. A freezer full of meat will not warm up as fast as a freezer full of baked foods.
  3. The colder the food, the longer it will stay frozen.
  4. A well insulated freezer will keep food frozen much longer then one with little insulation.
If dry ice is placed in the freezer soon after the power is shut off, 25 lbs. should keep the temperature below freezing 2 to 3 hours in a 10 cubic foot cabinet with half a load; 3 to 4 days in a fully loaded cabinet; or, the entire contents of freezer can be moved to a commercial freezer firm or use a friend’s or neighbor’s freezer.

Partial Thawing
  1. Partial thawing and re-freezing will reduce the quality of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods.
  2. It is considered a safe practice to refreeze foods that have partially thawed, if the foods still contain fusible ice crystals.
  3. Meat products are unsafe to eat when they thaw and sit for a time. Bacteria multiply very rapidly in thawed or non-refrigerated foods. If the color or odor of the thawed product is questionable, GET RID OF IT!
  4. Ice Cream or Ice Milk – Do not use or eat after the product has melted.
  5. Do not use canned foods where the can is; bulged, is badly dented or has rusted.
“If in Doubt - Throw it Out!”

Dishes, Pots & Pans
Dishes - Wash in very hot soapy water. Rinse in hot water. Dishwashers are excellent for cleaning dishes due to the high temperature of the water.

Note: Most dishes can be soaked in a solution of 1 tablespoon or ordinary household bleach to 1 gallon of warm water for 30 minutes Prior to Washing.

Pots and Pans - Pots and pans can be sterilized by boiling in water for at least 10 minutes. Caution - Some parts (handles, knobs, etc.) of the pots and pans Will Not withstand the high temperature involved with boiling water. Remove such where practical.

Wall, Paint & Wallpaper
Walls may be washed down while still wet. Use a mild soap or detergent and rubber gloves. Wash a small area at one time, working from floor up. Rinse in clear water immediately. Ceilings should be washed last. Do Not Paint Until Thoroughly Dry. Any questions, contact a paint professional.

Wallpaper / Walltex

  1. Heat and ventilate room for several days to dry the plaster as well as the paper.
  2. If mildewed paper is washable, wipe it with cloth wrung out of thick soap suds, clean with clear water.
  3. Re-paste edges or loosened sections.
  4. When washing wall paper, work quickly so paper does not become soaked. Work from the bottom to the top to prevent streaking.
Caution - For safety, keep all cleaning cloths saturated with cleaning solutions or compounds (other than water) in a metal container equipped with a tight fitting metal cover.

Upholstered Articles, Mattresses & Rugs
  1. Remove loose mold from surfaces by brushing with a broom. Do this outdoors to prevent scattering mildew spores in the house.
  2. Vacuum surface to draw out more of the mold.
  3. If mildew remains, sponge lightly with thick detergent suds using only the foam; wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
  4. If molds have grown into the inner part of an article, send to a reliable dry cleaner.
Removing White Spots from Wood Furniture
  1. Rub with a cloth wrung out of turpentine or camphorated oil.
  2. Wipe dry at once and polish with wax or furniture polish.
  3. For deep spots, use a drop or two of ammonia on a damp cloth and polish.
  4. A dry mixture of vegetable oil and cigarette ashes rubbed in with the fingertips is often effective in removing white spots.
Care Of Documents, Money & Books
Documents can be easily damaged or destroyed as a result of a fire or other disaster. The following documents should be located as soon as possible after the incident.
Birth Certificates
Income Tax Records
Social Security Card
Driver’s License
Bank Books
Payment Books
Medical Records
Animal Registration & Medical Records
Insurance Policies  & Insurance Cards
Titles & Deeds
Marriage Papers
Automobile Titles & Registration
Divorce Decree
Citizenship Papers
Alien Resident ID’s
Burial Contracts
Death Certificates
Stocks & Bonds
Senior Citizens ID’s
Military Discharge Papers
Note: It is wise to store all important documents in an approved container that is specifically designed for the protection of valuable documents.

Damaged Money or Securities:
To reclaim paper money or coins, check with any local commercial bank or contact:

Currency Redemption Division
Treasury Department
Washington, D.C. 20220

Property & Income Tax Adjustments
Property which is extensively damaged by fire may qualify for re-evaluation and a reduction in the property tax assessment. Information and applications are available from the Salt Lake County Assessor’s Office 801-468-3381 or 801-468-3050.

Uninsured loss of property, both real and personal, may entitle you to deductions on your property tax. Information is available from the Salt Lake area office of Internal Revenue Service  at 800-826-1040

Reference Directory
American Red Cross: 801-323-7000
Extension Service (Cleaning & Food): 801-468-3170
Property & Income Tax: Salt Lake County 801-468-3050
Internal Revenue (Federal Tax Questions): 800-829-1040
Social Security Administration: 800-453-0654
West Valley City Offices: 801-966-3600
West Valley City Fire Department: 801-963-3336
West Valley City Building Department: 801-963-3283
Salt Lake Area Utilities:
Electric: 801-533-8440
Questar Natural Gas: 801-534-5111
Granger Hunter Improvement District: 801-968-3551
Kearns Improvement District: 801-968-1011
Magna Improvement District: 801-250-2118