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Where There's Fire, There's Work to Be Done--Quickly

April 18, 1998|From Associated Press

If you have had the misfortune to have a fire in your home, it's important to take steps quickly to prevent further damage. Although insurance may cover destruction caused by the fire, it may not pay for preventable spoilage that occurs in its aftermath.

This means that you should board up damaged exterior doors and windows, cover a leaky roof with tarps or plastic sheeting, remove debris and take salvaged items to a safe place until the insurance claims adjuster can see them.

Because cleaning up fire damage differs from regular cleaning, it's often best to hire a fire restoration contractor. (To locate one, check the Yellow Pages.)

Other tips:

* To prevent pipes from bursting in cold weather, have a plumber drain the main water system. Or at least heat the house with a portable stove. Pour antifreeze into all drains and toilets.

* Have the electrical system and all electronic equipment checked and certified safe before using it.

* Send garments and draperies to a dry cleaner with an ozone chamber. Improper cleaning can set odors permanently in fabrics.

* Wipe leather goods with a damp cloth and then a dry one. Dry leather goods away from the sun or heat, then clean with saddle soap.

* Put art, books, papers and other porous materials into a freezer until a specialist can be retained. Use a vacuum freezer, if possible. See if a local frozen food company can help.

Suggestions for cleaning up after a fire:

* If the ceiling is sagging, use a hand drill to make small holes that let out trapped water. Fully drain one hole at a time, catching the water in a bucket. Wear goggles and a facemask to protect yourself from dirty water and debris.

Caution: Don't use an electric drill because of the danger of shock. If the sag in the ceiling is severe, stay out of the room and call a professional.

* Remove soot from walls, ceilings and floors with a warm-water solution. To each gallon, add 1 cup of chlorine bleach and 5 tablespoons of trisodium phosphate or other heavy-duty cleaner, available at hardware stores.

* To scrub mud or dirt from furniture, use a brush dipped in a cleaning solution with a pine oil base. Let the piece dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated, shady place (if dried in the sun, the wood might warp). Dry drawers separately to prevent sticking. If mildew forms, remove it with a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach and 1 quart warm water. Rinse.

* If carpet and padding are salvageable, move them and any rugs outdoors to dry. Spread them out as much as possible. If the electrical system has been checked, use fans or blowers to dry floors. Otherwise ventilate as well as possible.

* If water got under resilient floor covering or tiles, it may warp the wood underneath and cause odors. Take up the tiles or remove all the floor covering, carefully rolling it up so that it can be reused. If the material is brittle, use a heat lamp to soften it so that you can roll it without cracking it.

* To fix small blisters in linoleum or soft vinyl flooring, puncture them with a small nail. Shoot linoleum paste through the hole with a glue syringe. Weigh down the floor covering with bricks or water-filled buckets on boards until the glue dries.

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