How to Help Victims After a Fire

Resources Available After a Fire

A house fire can mean devastating losses, from personal items to valuable documents. In these cases, support from the community makes all the difference.

Making donations to the Red Cross or becoming a volunteer is the best way to support victims of a fire, according to the Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department. Charitable donations are also a way to help, and church groups often offer assistance.

“We encourage victims to set up a charitable donation account at a local bank/credit union to allow a means for people to donate directly to them,” said Troy Weiland, Deputy Fire Chief. “We often get calls from people wanting to help the victims of a fire by making donations and it helps to have a place for those donations to be directed. We cannot accept donations at the fire department on behalf of the victims, so it’s nice to have an avenue to direct donations.”

The Red Cross plays a major role in helping fire victims, and the fire department will contact the organization while on scene to allow time to set up temporary housing and acquire essential items like food and clothing. A representative, usually a volunteer, is trained to interview fire victims to ensure they get what they need. In the instance of a total loss of housing, the Red Cross provides temporary housing through local hotels. Salvation Army is another organization which helps fire victims.

Having up-to-date insurance transforms a total loss into a setback, and the fire department helps contact the victim’s insurance agent. “Most insurance companies are very helpful and will assist with accommodations, securing the property after the fire department leaves, getting funds, transportation, contacting restoration companies, etc.,” said Weiland.

Renters are less likely to have insurance. However, renters insurance comes at a reasonable cost and covers contents, liability, and expenses. “When interviewing victims after a fire I often hear a common phrase, ‘I can’t believe it happened to me!’” said Weiland. “No one expects to have to go through a fire; however, accidents happen and it can happen to you.”

It’s best to be prepared beforehand should a fire occur by teaching fire safety to your family and working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. “Smoke detectors provide early warning to ensure you get out safety and will help detect a fire in the early stages,” said Weiland. “Fire grows rapidly and the earlier it is detected, the greater the chance the fire department has in controlling and confining the fire. Replace smoke detectors every 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors every 5 years.”

Protect important documents by keeping a backup copy of your photos and paperwork off-site. More information about replacing valuable documents and records can be found on the fire departments “After the Fire” web page, a helpful resource both before and after a fire.