What to do after a house fire

How to recover from a fire in your home, including how to get temporary accommodation, deal with insurers and replace essential documents. 

This guidance is aimed at people who live in their own home or rent long-term. If you're in temporary accommodation already, contact your housing provider.

What happens in the first few hours after a fire

When the fire and rescue service has put out the fire, the senior firefighter (known as the Incident Commander) will give you a document called an incident handover or provide a verbal report. This will let you know:

  • whether you can safely re-enter your home
  • if your gas, electricity, oil or water has been turned off
  • how much damage was caused
  • what your incident number is – you'll need this if you contact the fire and rescue service or make an insurance claim.

If you're not home at the time of the fire, the Incident Commander may give the information to a friend or neighbour.

Fire can damage the structure of a building. The fire and rescue service may call a building inspector from the local council to check how safe your property is. If it's unsafe, the inspector will order the building to be sealed off. You will not be allowed to enter the property. You'll need to find temporary accommodation.

Take care of yourself and others

If you or anyone in your household feels unwell after a fire or other emergency, you can get medical assistance from:

  • your GP – if you can't see your regular GP you can get a one-off consultation as a temporary patient at any surgery
  • your nearest urgent care or emergency department (A&E)
  • NHS Direct – call 111 for advice (this number is free from landlines and mobile phones).

Check with a pharmacist before you use any medication that has been exposed to heat. It may need to be replaced. To get emergency prescriptions from the NHS, make an online request.

If someone died because of the fire there are support organisations on GOV.UK or on nidirect if you're in Northern Ireland.

If you have lost a pet in the fire, the Blue Cross animal charity has a pet loss support team.

Contact your insurer

If you have buildings or contents insurance, call your insurer as soon as possible. If you're renting, contact your landlord or letting agent.

Depending on the amount of damage, they may arrange for a valuation expert called a loss adjuster to inspect your property, usually within 48 hours.

If you can't stay in your home

It may not be healthy or safe for you to stay in your home, for example because of smoke, water or structural damage.

Arrange for doors and windows to be boarded up

If your doors or windows have been damaged or destroyed, get them boarded up. This is to prevent people entering, especially at ground floor level.

Your buildings insurance company may arrange this for you. If you're not insured, you can find details of emergency boarding up companies online. Note how many windows and doors there are, and approximate sizes.

Find temporary accommodation

You may prefer to stay with friends or family. Otherwise who you should contact depends on if you:

  • have buildings insurance – your insurer will arrange for you to stay in a hotel or similar. If you want to bring a pet with you make sure the insurer arranges pet-friendly accommodation, for example the Travelodge chain
  • own your home but aren't insured – contact the emergency housing department of your local council in England and Wales or the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland
  • are renting or a guest at someone's home – call your landlord, letting agent or housing association. If they can't help you, contact the emergency housing department of your local authority or the Housing Executive.

Get food, clothing and other essential items

Your insurer may be able to give you a cash advance to buy essentials. If not, be sure to keep your receipts so you can get the money back.

If you're not insured, contact our Support Line: 0808 196 3651. We will tell you where you can get help.

Find longer-term accommodation

You may not be able to go home for a number of weeks or months, for example if your property requires major repairs.

If you own the property and you're insured, your insurance company will provide suitable accommodation. This could be in a rental property or a static caravan if there's space at your property. If you're not insured contact your local council or the Housing Executive.

Tenants should contact their local council or the Housing Executive – private landlords do not have to find replacement accommodation for their tenants.

Check your home is safe to be in

Do not enter your home unless the fire and rescue service says it's safe to do so.

  1. Check the information that the Incident Commander gave you for any specific advice.
  2. If you're intending to stay in the house, contact your gas, electricity, oil and water suppliers, as necessary, to tell them about the incident.
  3. If you've been disconnected from the gas, electricity, oil or water supply you must use a qualified engineer to get reconnected.
  4. Do not use any electrical appliances that have been exposed to flames or heat. If you're not sure, get an electrician to check.

How to clean up

If you have buildings or contents insurance, your insurer may send fire damage restoration specialists to clean up. Get authorisation before you do any cleaning up yourself.

Take photos of all areas and items that have been damaged to assist with making your insurance claim.

If you decide not to use a professional company to clean up, research the best fire damage cleaning methods online.

Consider hiring a dehumidifier or dryer from an equipment rental company. Smoke and soot particles are difficult to remove from upholstery, carpets, curtains, mattresses and bedding – it may be necessary to replace these.

Beware of people claiming to work with your insurer or offering help

You may be approached by someone who says they're from your insurance provider or a related claims management company.

They may offer to help maximise your claim. This can be a trick to get you to sign a separate agreement with them and spend extra money.

Anyone genuinely working with your insurer will have your details including your policy number.

Replace important documents

If you’ve lost any of the following documents, contact the relevant organisation to request a replacement.

Bank and building society documents including debit and credit cards:

Contact your bank or building society.


  • Universal Credit – call 0800 328 5644
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 169 0310

Driving licences and vehicle documents:

  • Driving licence – call DVLA on 0870 280 5543
  • Vehicle registration (V5) – call DVLA on 0870 280 0475
  • MOT – contact the garage where it was issued or an MOT Centre in Northern Ireland
  • Vehicle insurance – contact the insurance company

Identity documents for foreign nationals:

Insurance policies:

Contact your agent, broker or company.

Medical cards:

Contact your GP surgery.


Apply for a replacement UK passport or get an application form from your local Post Office. Irish passport holders can use the renewal service.

Pension documents:

For your state pension contact the Pension Service on 0800 731 7898. If you have a company pension you should contact your employer.

Property deeds or title documents:

Contact the Land Registry and your solicitor.


Obtain copies from your solicitor or arrange for a new will. We offer a free will-writing service.

Call our support line: 0808 196 3651

The British Red Cross National Support Line offers support to people affected by a crisis. We're open:

10am to 5pm – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
10am to 8pm – Wednesday