What to do after a house fire

Whether your home was destroyed or partially damaged in a fire, the experience can have a long-lasting mental and financial impact on you and your family. In the aftermath of a house fire, it's important to ensure family members, including pets, are safe and have temporary shelter if needed. You should file a claim with your insurer as soon as possible to avoid delays in making your home habitable again.

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Tips for what to do after a house fire

  1. Find shelter

    If a house fire has damaged your home extensively, you may need to secure a safe place for you and your family to stay. You might stay with a family member or friend or in a hotel. If you have loss of use coverage on your homeowners policy, then you may be reimbursed for food, lodging, and other additional expenses, up to your policy's limit.

  2. Take care of family pets

    Once you've secured shelter and ensured your loved ones are safe, you may want to have your pets checked out by a veterinarian. They'll likely be scared and disoriented, so take time to comfort them. That can help in your mental recovery, too.

  3. Notify the proper authorities

    Begin by reaching out to your local police department and let them know if you've had to leave the property unattended because of a house fire. Next, connect with your utility companies to temporarily stop service. If you have children, check in with their teachers and principals so those individuals can provide additional support and resources, if needed.

  4. Secure your home

    Cover up any broken windows or doors with plywood, as well as any other openings to the outside. This will protect your home from the elements and deter any would-be thieves or burglars. If you must vacate the home for a while, make sure to check on it regularly to ensure no one has broken in and nothing else has been damaged.

  5. Contact your agent or insurer

    Whether your house suffered minor damage or destruction, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to file a homeowners insurance claim. Your insurer will assign an adjuster to review the damage, determine coverage, and work with you to arrange repairs.

    Important note: If you must make emergency repairs to prevent further damage to your home, your insurance could reimburse you. Keep copies of all receipts related to the repairs and include them with your claim filing.

  6. Collect supporting materials and documents

    Before your insurer can create an estimate that outlines how much repairs will cost and factor in deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs, they'll need more information. Be prepared to submit photographs and videos of the fire damage, including the interior of your home and any personal belongings (assuming it's safe to enter your home). If you have a home inventory, you should provide it to your insurer to speed up the claims process.

    Remember to keep copies of everything you share with your insurer. Your insurance adjuster will set up time with you to inspect your home, verifying the extent of the damage to your house and personal property. Take notes as you walk through your home with the adjuster. That way you have a point of reference once the adjuster provides their estimate of how much your insurance will pay. Learn more about the property claims process at Progressive.

  7. Begin repairs

    You may want to get a handful of estimates for the repairs, so you can vet multiple contractors and their previous work for other clients. Be sure to collect and keep all receipts or invoices related to the repairs, even if your insurer is paying the contractor directly. Hold on to damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to assess your home and property.

    If the fire completely damaged your house and you must stay elsewhere, retain receipts of all additional expenses incurred. That includes lodging, food, basic living expenses, and even temporary boarding of pets because you may have coverage for such expenses. Learn more about loss of use coverage and personal property coverage.

    Important note: For covered home repairs or rebuilds, many insurance companies pay contractors directly on behalf of their customer. Others may provide a check to the customer to pay for the work. Once the repairs are done, make sure you're 100% satisfied with the work before your insurer delivers the final payment to any contractor.


If you live in a wildfire-prone area, then your homeowners insurance may or may not cover wildfire damage to your home. Please always review your policy for full coverage details. Additionally, most states have Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plans that can provide coverage for wildfires if you have no other options for availability of property insurance. Learn more about insurance coverage for wildfires.

Most importantly, focus on your well-being

Whether a house fire is minor or catastrophic, it's a traumatic event that often leaves everyone involved with a lost sense of safety, anxiety, and possibly even depression.

After you've secured a place to stay, check in with loved ones impacted by the experience. Although recovery can take time, there are specific things you and your family can do to help cope, such as:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Return to as many daily routines as possible
  • Accept help from others
  • Do something enjoyable and stress-free as a family

For additional information and assistance, reach out to local charities and support organizations in your area that may be able to provide additional support.

A fire safety inspection can help you identify potential fire hazards in your home, such as overloaded power strips or wiring issues. Learn more ways to prevent house fires.

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