After the Fire

Recovering from a Fire

A fire in your home or business can be one of the most tragic events you ever experience. The fire is out and now you must try to get back to life as usual...

About Our Job

  • Any windows that were broken and any holes cut in the roof were for ventilation. Proper ventilation techniques used by fire fighters reduce horizontal fire spread in a building, and greatly reduce smoke and heat damage.
  • Openings in walls and ceilings are to ensure that the fire is completely out. Any hidden embers could reignite later.
  • It is sometimes necessary to disconnect utilities to prevent further damage and to ensure the safety of fire fighters.
  • If tarps have been thrown over your possessions, it was to protect them from water and debris. The tarps need to be picked up by the Fire Department as soon as possible to be ready for use again.
  • City codes require the investigation of all fires that harm people or damage property. The Fire Investigator must make a preliminary determination of the cause before the fire area can be disturbed.

After The Fire Checklist

If Your Property Is Covered by Insurance

  • Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
  • If you are unable to reach your insurance agent or company, most policies require you to have your home secured against vandalism and looting.
    • Some policies allow advanced funds for your family to find lodging.
    • If possible, do not disturb or remove any items before the insurance adjuster arrives.
  • You need to keep receipts for all expenditures.
  • If you are a tenant, contact the resident manager, the owner, or the owner's insurance agent. It is the owner's responsibility to prevent further loss to the site.
  • Be sure that your personal belongings are secure either within the building or by moving them to another location.
  • Contact your own insurance agent to report the loss. The property owner's insurance, in most cases, will not cover the loss of your personal belongings.

If Your Property Is Not Covered by Insurance

  • Emergency assistance, including temporary shelter, food, clothing, eye glasses, and medicine is available through the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
  • When the fire has not been severe, preliminary clean-up should begin as soon as the Fire Department gives permission. Considerable damage to your belongings can be minimized this way.

Caution When Entering the Building After a Fire

  • When entering the building, watch for structural damage caused by the fire. Roofs and floors may be weakened and the ceilings may fall.
  • Fire can rekindle from hidden, smoldering remains. Be watchful for signs of heat or smoke and call the fire department to have the area checked.
  • Household wiring which may have been water damaged should be checked by an electrician before the electricity is turned back on.
  • Do not attempt to restore electric or gas service that has been disconnected to appliances or to the building. Service may be restored only by a representative of the Utility Company.
  • It is not permissible to make repairs without permits and inspections by City of Owatonna Building Inspectors. Inspections are also required before utility companies can restore service.
  • When practical, fire fighters will have done some clean-up in residential properties. Due to the size of most commercial buildings, clean-up assistance from fire fighters is not possible. Equipment such as water vacuums can be rented from some companies listed in the phone book under Rental Service Stores.

Saving Your Belongings

  • Open windows to minimize smoke odors.
  • Remove all undamaged jewelry, silver, artwork, etc.
  • Contractors who specialize in fire restoration and clean-up, as well as companies who specialize in cleaning fabrics can be found in the yellow pages under the listing Fire and Water Damage Restoration.
  • Commercial laundering and dry cleaning can help remove soot and smoke odor from clothing.
  • Mop floors as soon as possible.
    • Rugs and carpet padding should be taken up and allowed to thoroughly dry.
  • If temperature is below freezing, and the heat is off, a plumber should be called to winterize your plumbing.
  • Do not use TVs or other appliances that have been exposed to heat, until they are checked by a serviceman.
  • Change your filter in your furnace.
  • Do not use food or canned goods that have been exposed to heat.
  • If electric service has been disconnected, have your frozen foods placed in a freezer with 24 hours.

Monetary Replacement

  • Mutilated or melted coins are returnable at the nearest Federal Reserve Bank, or they may be sent by first class registered mail to:
    U.S. Assay Office
    32 Old Slip
    New York, NY. 10005
  • Currency, half or more intact, should be taken to the Federal Reserve Bank or mailed as above, to:
    U.S. Treasury Department
    Main Treasury Building 1123
    Washington, D.C. 20220
  • Any mutilated or destroyed bonds are handled by:
    Attention: Bond Consultant
    U.S. Treasury Department
    Bureau of Public Debt
    Division of Loans and Currency
    537 South Clark Street
    Chicago, IL 60605
    • Include names and addresses on bonds, approximate date or time period purchased, denominations, and approximate number of each.

Documents & Records

AFDC and welfare clients should notify case workers if their ID cards have been destroyed. Copies of birth, death, and marriage records can be obtained from the District Court Clerk in the county of birth, death, or marriage.

Leaving Your Home

Contact the Owatonna Police Department or the Steele County Sheriff's Office to request patrol units in your neighborhood.

Local relief services, like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, should be able to help you with temporary housing.

Try to locate and take the following items with you:

  • Identification
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetic devices or other personal aids
  • Valuables such as:
    • Checkbooks
    • Credit cards
    • Insurance policies
    • Jewelry
    • Money
    • Savings account books
  • Vital medicines such as insulin or blood pressure regulating drugs

Notify the following parties of your relocation:

  • Delivery services, such as newspapers
  • Family, friends, and neighbors
  • Your children's schools
  • Your employer
  • Your insurance agent or adjuster
  • Your mortgage company (also inform them also of the fire)
  • Your post office

Additional Questions

Your disaster relief service case worker, the Owatonna Fire Department, or your insurance agent will help you with the many questions you will have in the coming days.

In the meantime:

  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damages are taken into consideration in developing your insurance claim.
  • Do not contract for an estimate, inventory or repair services without first consulting your insurance agent or adjuster.
  • If you feel that the amount of money offered by your insurance company to pay for your loss is not fair, you have several courses of action:
    • You can ask that the loss be evaluated by appraisers who do not work for your insurance company.
    • You can hire an attorney to represent your best interests.
    • You can file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Helpful Phone Numbers

Do not feel that you will be left on your own when the Fire Department leaves. Assistance is available from a number of agencies. The list below contains telephone numbers for some of these organizations.

  • The American Red Cross
    Phone: 507-451-2777
  • Salvation Army
    Phone: 507-455-2023
  • Crisis Counseling
    Phone: 800-722-0590
    Phone (after hours): 507-455-8100
  • City of Owatonna
    Phone: 507-444-4300
  • Fire Marshal's Office
    Phone: 651-201-7200
  • Police Department 
    Phone (non-emergency): 507-444-3800
  • Fire Department
    Phone (non-emergency): 507-444-2454
  • Building Inspection Department
    Phone: 507-444-4370
  • Owatonna Public Utilities
    Phone: 507-451-2480
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant
    Phone: 507-444-2452
  • Steele County Assessor's Office
    Phone: 507-444-7435
  • Internal Revenue Service
    Phone: 800-829-1040
  • Department of Insurance
    Phone: 800-252-3439
  • Better Business Bureau
    Phone: 800-646-6222

In some cases, the portion of your fire loss not covered by insurance may be tax deductible from your federal income tax. For information, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or your tax preparer.