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Recovering from an emergency event can be a physically and mentally draining process. Often, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact.
 
While the fire is under investigation, NO ONE, including the property owner is permitted on site without the express approval of the Fire/Police Arson Investigator.

The investigation and safety assessment can take hours, days or weeks, so please plan accordingly.

What You Should Do First

Address Your Basic Needs
  • Emergency accommodations (first 3 days) and short-term accommodations (more than 3 days)
  • Food and/or clothing
  • Medications/prescriptions: for direction on emergency refills or any other questions, call Health Link at 8-1-1
  • Aids to daily living (i.e., oxygen, walkers, hearing aids, prescription eyewear and dentures)
  • Pet care: if you have lost your pet, please contact the Animal Care and Control Centre at 3-1-1
  • Transportation 
     
Contact Your Insurance Company or Agent

Contact your Insurance Company or Agent as soon as possible after a fire. They will provide assistance on topics such as temporary accommodations, property restoration, inventory damage assessment and contaminated food. If you are renting or leasing property, contact the owner as well.

Avoid moving, removing or throwing out any items, unless necessary, until after the adjuster has seen the property “as is” and an inventory of damaged goods is made and provided to your insurance company.

If you are the property owner/landlord, the insurance only covers the property itself. It does not cover neighbours’ or tenants’ personal belongings or if items are stolen, damaged or destroyed. If a neighbour’s residence is also affected by the fire, each property owner must contact their owner insurance provider.

RENTER / TENANT INSURANCE
If you are renting or leasing, do not assume you are covered by the owner’s insurance. In most cases, the tenant is obliged to provide his/her own coverage that covers valuables, furniture and most personal items. Tenants insurance also provides liability coverage in case someone gets hurt while in your home or if you unintentionally injure someone or damage their property.

If you do not have your own tenant’s policy, check with the property owner. In some instances, there may be insurance coverage included in the lease. Take nothing for granted; it could cost you money.

LIVING EXPENSES
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has advised Edmonton Fire Rescue Services that most homeowners and tenants insurance will pay for reasonable additional living expenses if your premises are unfit for occupancy or you have to move out while repairs are being made, because of the fire. Keep your receipts for all expenses incurred as a result of the fire for review by the adjusters. Reimbursement limits will vary from company to company.

SECURITY
It is the responsibility of the occupant to secure the property as well as possible after the fire, to prevent further loss. Your adjuster, once contacted, can assist you in this regard. If you are unable to contact your insurance company, professional contractors can help.
 

Emergency Support Services

The City’s Emergency Support Response Team (ESRT) works with the Canadian Red Cross to provide you with temporary emergency housing. If necessary, the Canadian Red Cross and Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society will also provide emergency clothing, food and personal items. In some cases, the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society will supply essential furniture. If you have homeowners or tenants insurance, then your policy may cover temporary housing.

Canadian Red Cross
Office: 780-423-2680
Emergencies (24h): 1-888-800-6493

Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society (24h)
Call: 780-428-4422

If You Cannot Live In The House

Remove Your Valuables

Remove as many valuables as possible if you must stay elsewhere. While Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is investigating the fire, an officer will accompany you to recover these items and a record will be kept of what is removed from your home. Check for important legal documents, damaged or undamaged.

Try to locate the following items to take with you:

  • Personal identification
  • Vital medicines (i.e., blood pressure regulating drugs, insulin, anti-seizure medication, etc.)
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids or other personal aids (even if damaged, personal aids may be repaired or replaced temporarily)
  • Valuables (i.e., credit cards, checkbooks, insurance policies, savings account books, money, jewelry, etc.)

NOTE: After a fire, don't attempt to open your safe until its exterior is cool to the touch. Intense heat may be contained for hours and if the door is opened before the safe has a chance to cool down, the contents may burst into flames.
 

Locate Important Documents and Records

Important documents and paperwork can be damaged or destroyed as a result of a fire, flood or other disasters. Access to these documents and records is often essential to your well-being. Locating these documents will hasten the process of recovering from a disaster.

IDENTITY DOCUMENTS

  • Birth Certificate
  • Citizenship Papers
  • Driver’s Licence
  • Divorce Decree
  • Marriage Licence
  • Passport
  • Old Age Security Card
  • Social Insurance Card


OTHER IMPORTANT RECORDS

  • Animal Registration
  • Bank Book
  • Death Certificates
  • Income Tax Records
  • Insurance Policies
  • Land Titles
  • Medical Records
  • Stocks and Bonds
  • Title to Deeds
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Warranties
  • Wills
     
Replace Financial Materials and Paperwork

Financial materials and paperwork can be damaged or destroyed as a result of a fire, flood or other disaster. There are processes for replacing stocks, bonds, cash or personal banking valuables.

Service Canada
1-800-622-6232 (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm)
For employment insurance, social insurance number and old age security.

Passport Canada
1-800-567-6868 (Mon-Fri 7:30am-5pm)

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
1-888-242-2100 (Mon-Fri 8am-4pm)
For citizenship papers.

Canada Revenue Agency
1-800-959-8281 (Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm)
For income tax records.

Veteran Affairs Canada
1-866-522-2122 (Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm)
For military papers.

Alberta Registries
For copies of driver’s license, vehicle registration, as well as birth, death and marriage certificates, please visit an authorized Alberta registry agent.

Canada Savings Bonds
1-800-575-5151 (Mon-Fri 7am-3pm)
For savings bonds.

Bank of Canada
1-800-303-1282 (Mon-Fri 7am-3pm)
For damaged money.
 

Who You Should Notify
  • Family members and friends
  • Employers
  • Utility service providers (natural gas, electricity, water, phone, cable and Internet) to reconnect or turn utilities on or off
  • Insurance company/agent
  • Your bank/financial institution (including credit card companies)
  • Landlords or building owners/supervisors, if you are renting
  • Children’s school or daycare
  • Canada Post to reroute your mail if you have to move out for any length of time
  • Health and Welfare Canada if you receive benefits from Canada Pension Plan, Family Allowance or Old Age Security
     
Counselling/Crisis Services

After an emergency, it is normal to experience anxious feelings, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, hopelessness, irrational (unfounded) fears and nightmares. These are common responses to traumatic events.

Here are some agencies that can provide counselling and/or crisis management support.

City of Edmonton Social Workers 
Call: 780-496-4777

211 Resource Lists
Call: 211

  • Provides direct link between essential health, human services, community resources and government assistance needed day-to-day and in times of crisis

The Crisis Support Centre (24h)
Call: 780-482-4357

  • Helps individuals cope with crises by phone, in person and online

Returning to Your Home

Assess Damage

After the fire investigation is complete, the property is returned to the owner/owner’s representative (i.e., insurance company), unless the building inspector declares the house unsafe due to structural damage.

Once a building has been damaged by fire, it is subject to the regulations of the current building code. The property owner will work with insurance adjusters, safety inspectors and others to thoroughly assess infrastructure. 

Check with the City of Edmonton’s Sustainable Development to determine if a permit is required before attempting any repairs or reconstruction. If there is a “warning” ribbon or “Under Investigation” placard still in place at your property, contact Fire Investigations (780-496-3799) immediately to ensure it is okay to enter.
 

Exercise Caution

Although the fire may have been small, with nothing that appears to be of danger to you, be careful.

Many common modern home items (i.e., furniture, clothing, floor coverings, etc.) are manufactured from synthetic materials. When exposed to high heat, such as a fire, these materials can give off invisible toxic gases that may be harmful to your health. Firefighters will make every effort to quickly ventilate your home, but this does not guarantee complete elimination of these gases and toxic fumes can be emitted well after a fire is extinguished. 

Why does there appear to be excessive damage to your home? Ventilation is a standard firefighting technique where firefighters create openings in walls or ceiling spaces to help reduce fire damage and to ensure that fire does not go unnoticed in these spaces and cause further damage.

Utilities

Often, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services will have utilities shut off or disconnected as a safety precaution or as a result of fire damage. If your gas, water or power was turned off during the fire, call the City of Edmonton Utilities and/or gas company to restore services. Damage to outside installations (on the city side of the power meter) may be repaired by the agency concerned.

Utility companies do not make repairs inside the home. It is your responsibility, or that of your insurance company, to arrange this. You may use a private contractor if you wish. Damage occurring to water, sewer, power or natural gas installations inside the dwelling must be repaired under permit and inspected by the appropriate agency before they can be turned on.

  • Natural Gas - ATCO Gas (24h): 780-420-5585
  • Electricity - EPCOR (24h): 780-412-4500
  • Water and Sanitation - EPCOR (24h): 780-412-6800

If you have any concerns with your telephone, cable or Internet, contact your service provider.
 

Salvage Hints

Returning to your home after a fire is emotionally exhausting. These salvage hints will help you as clean and sort through the remaining items. Remember: If in doubt, throw it out!

FOOD
You must be extremely careful when salvaging food. Once subjected to a fire, food can spoil quickly, resulting in the production of salmonella bacteria. Eating such food can result in food poisoning.

Even if the fire took place some distance from the kitchen, your food was quite possibly subjected to very high temperatures. Thoroughly examine everything and don’t take any chances.

If your freezer has stopped running, it may not be possible to salvage the food, depending on the severity of the fire and its proximity to the freezer. It may have enough insulation to keep the food frozen for at least a day and perhaps longer. If necessary, move your food to a neighbour’s freezer or to a commercial freezer firm. Wrap the frozen food in newspapers and blankets or place it in insulated boxes to transport.

APPLIANCES
Don’t operate any appliances until you have had a qualified professional check them and service them if needed. 

If the fire crews turned off your gas, water or power during the fire, call your utility company to restore services. Don’t try to do this yourself!

To remove odour from your refrigerator or freezer, wash the inside with a solution of baking soda and water, or use one cup of vinegar or household ammonia to one gallon of water. Baking soda in an open container, or a piece of charcoal, can be placed in the refrigerator to absorb odours.  

When cleaning or discarding any refrigerator or freezer, be sure the doors or locks are removed or secured to prevent a child from becoming trapped inside.

CLOTHING
Take wool or silk garments to the dry-cleaners as soon as possible.

Smoke odour and soot can sometimes be washed from other clothing. The following formula will often work for clothing that can be bleached:

  • 4-6 tablespoons (60-90 ml) trisodium phosphate (can be purchased in paint stores)
  • 1 cup household (250 ml) chlorine bleach

NOTE: Test coloured garments before using any treatment.

FURNITURE, CABINETS AND BEDDING
Vacuum surfaces before cleaning. Inexpensive cleaners such as flax soap or linseed soft soap (available in hardware and paint stores) are the most efficient products to use on wood, including kitchen cabinets.

Don’t dry furniture in the sun as the wood may warp and twist out of shape. Furniture shampoo units (available at any rental outlet) are recommended for upholstered furniture. Be sure to test the fabric for colour-fastness before shampooing. Follow the instructions that come with the unit.

Reconditioning a mattress at home is very difficult. A company that builds or repairs mattresses can probably recondition your mattress. It is almost impossible to remove smoke odour from pillows. Feathers and/or foam retain the odour, so they should just be replaced.

LEATHER GOODS
Wipe with a damp cloth, then with a dry cloth. Stuff newspaper into shoes and purses to retain their shape, and leave suitcases open. When dry, clean with saddle soap. Use steel wool or a suede brush on suede. Rinse leather and suede garments in cold water and dry away from heat and sun.

BOOKS
Books can be dried by placing them on their vertical end with the pages separated. Then, stack them to prevent pages from wrinkling. Alternate drying and stacking to help prevent mildew. If books are very damp, sprinkle cornstarch or talc between the pages, leave for several hours and then brush off.

AIR FILTERS
Replace furnace filters. Thoroughly clean all air conditioning and furnace ducts to avoid having to clean things twice.

PAINTED WALLS
Vacuum before cleaning. To remove soot and smoke from painted walls, mix:

  • 4-6 tablespoons (60-90 ml) trisodium phosphate (can be purchased in paint stores)
  • 1 gallon (4 litres) water

Keep this solution away from children and pets. Use rubber gloves and goggles to wash a small area at a time. Since soot will deposit on the ceilings and upper portions of walls, work from the floor up, doing ceilings last. Rinse thoroughly. When completely dry, apply a smoke primer (available at a paint store) before painting.

NOTE: Usually, wallpaper cannot be restored. Check with your wallpaper dealer.

FLOORS AND CARPETS
Remember to vacuum all surfaces before cleaning. 

  • Wood and Linoleum: Use flax or linseed soap; apply 4 or 5 times, then strip and re-wax 
  • Carpet: Steam clean, shampoo, then steam clean again.

LOCKS AND HINGES
Locks should be taken apart, wiped with kerosene and oiled. If locks cannot be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or keyhole and turn the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges should also be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
 

Obtain a Copy of a Fire Investigator's Report

Request the report in writing, making sure to include your complete return address, postal code and phone number, along with the Fire Event number and the date and time of the fire.

Prior to sending your request, call 311 or check with the Investigations Office (780-496-3799) for current fees. Cheques should be made payable to The City of Edmonton.

If you are not the owner or occupant of the property where the fire started, you must provide signed consent from the owner/occupant giving the investigator permission to release the information or report to you.

Send written request to:

FOIP Assistant — Citizen Services
P.O. Box 2359
Edmonton, AB

NOTE: There may be additional charges for meetings or interviews with Fire Investigations staff.
 

For More Information

Telephone

In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

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