After a house fire

A house fire, no matter how much damage it leaves, is a devastating and traumatic event. You may be eager to get in there and begin the clean-up and repairs as soon as possible but make sure you take these steps first:

Entering your home

It’s important you do not enter your home until you’ve been told by the New Zealand Fire Service that it’s safe to do so. When it’s safe to enter try to find crucial items such as your identification, insurance and medical information, glasses, hearing aids, wallets and valuables.

If the house is too damaged to live in, board up openings to discourage trespassers and opportunistic theft. It’s a good idea to take photos of the property too. This provides evidence should someone enter your home and tamper with it without your permission. 

house fire

Contact your insurance company

Following a house fire, your insurance company needs notifying immediately. They will arrange an inspector or assessor to come and visit your property. As well as recording damage to the buildings, they will also identify the damage to your contents too. Your insurance company will also be able to explain the claims process. This will include telling you when you can start hiring tradespeople to clean up and repair the damage.

Don’t remove any items or throw away any damaged items until you have spoken to your insurer, in case they need to be assessed. It’s common for insurance companies to investigate claims so try to remember the events leading up to the fire and be prepared to answer questions from your insurer. Remember to keep any receipts for expenses resulting from the fire, such as accommodation, clothes, and medical supplies as your insurer may request these.

If you don’t have insurance:

Depending on the severity of the fire it may take some time to get back on your feet – if you need additional support reach out to local community groups or the organisations listed below.

Contact anybody providing services to your property:

Following a fire, it’s important to contact any company who provides services to your property so that the services can be disconnected or put on hold until the property is safe and habitable again.

This includes:

  • Your bank or mortgage company
  • Post office
  • Electricity supplier
  • Local council
  • Gas supplier
  • Phone and Internet provider


If you're a tenant, contact your landlord as soon as possible.


Begin to restore and clean-up your property

Once you are given the go ahead by your insurance company, you can begin the repair and clean-up work. After a fire there may be severe smoke and water damage which requires professional fire and water damage restorers. Structural damage must be repaired by a Licensed Building Practitioner. Look for tradies which have experience working with fire restoration work.

house fire

There are several jobs you can do yourself; this includes throwing out food, drink and medicines exposed to the smoke, fire or water. Wash tins and jars in detergent and water. Don’t eat tinned food if the tin has bulged or has rusted, and don’t refreeze any defrosted food.

You can clean soot off your walls, ceilings and even clothing using a mixture of 4-6 teaspoons of emulsifying solvent cleaner, one cup of chlorine bleach and four litres of warm water.

Water and smoke damaged furniture, rugs, carpets and drapes will require professional cleaning. Wooden furniture can be scrubbed and then dried immediately in a warm but shady spot. You can find out more about how you can clean-up your property on the NZ Fire Service’s website.

Who to contact for help:

After a fire, it's normal to feel unsettled and disrupted for a while. You may be able to overcome any problems yourself but don't be afraid to ask for help.


Remember to ALWAYS have a safety and escape plan for your family in the case of fires, earthquakes and floods.

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