Guide helps fire victims recover

ESCANABA – Victims experiencing the trauma of a house fire are getting back on their feet with the help of an “After the Fire” guide available from Escanaba Public Safety.

The handout offers immediate guidance to assist fire victims in picking up the pieces including who to notify after a fire, where to go for shelter, how to care for pets, and what documents to start replacing.

“Many times we’d be done with a fire scene and citizens would have questions about what to do,” explained Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden. “We’d answer questions on the scene but we wanted to develop a guide to give people a feeling of empowerment.”

Public Safety found the guidelines on the website of the National Fire Protection Association then tweaked them to meet local needs, said Vanderlinden.

The department made the handouts available to fire victims beginning this past spring.

“The citizens will find it very helpful,” noted Vanderlinden, encouraging other fire departments to copy Escanaba’s “After the Fire” guide to distribute in their communities.

Following a fire, victims are informed to contact the local American Red Cross or Salvation Army to help with shelter, food, clothing and medicines for family members.

Pets need care and comfort, too, and should be kept out of the house until the cleanup is complete, the guide notes.

Vanderlinden said it’s important a damaged building is not entered until the fire department determines the fire is extinguished and the structure is safe.

Insurance agents, landlords, and mortgage lenders should all be notified of the fire damage. Residents should never turn utilities back on themselves. Homes should be secured if left vacant.

The guide also explains why firefighters may have broken windows or cut holes in the roof or walls for ventilation or to make sure the fire is completely out.

The guide offers a list of documents to collect or replace such as birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, passports, titles and other important records.

Fire victims are also reminded to save receipts for items and services related to the fire so losses can be claimed.

“Experiencing a fire can be a huge shock and tragedy,” Vanderlinden said, noting the guide offers victims direction to begin recovering from their loss so lives can return to normal.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net