What NOT to Do After an Orange County House Fire

Is this the worst feeling in the world? It can be at the time.

It is a devastating experience to lose your home and possessions, memories and heirlooms to a house fire. Once the firefighters have put out the fire, packed up their trucks and driven away, you are left with nothing but a hole where your family home used to be.

Many people feel the need to be more proactive following a devastating experience such as this. After fire damage it is natural for many homeowners to want to jump right in and clean the building and contents, where possible. Acting quickly can be a great help, but not if you are applying the wrong processes, which can jeopardize or impede the restoration process.

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the East Bay Hills Fire that killed 25 and injured 150. Giant flames tore through the northern California hills, pouring smoke and ash down into Berkeley and Oakland. The fire consumed thousands of homes, costing an estimated $1.5 billion. Margaretta Mitchell considers herself lucky, though her home was completely soaked by the fire department’s hoses. But she was able to restore her house after fire and water destroyed much of it. Her new film “Fire Ruin Renewal” chronicles the disaster and the rebuilding.

If you find yourself in this terrible situation, the team at Milestone Building Group offers these “do’s and don’t’s” to help you figure out how you can help us do our job, and things to avoid.


  • Clean and protect chrome trim on faucets and other brightwork by washing with detergent and applying a coating of Vaseline or oil
  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose smoke particles from upholstery, draperies, and carpeting
  • Open windows for ventilation if weather permits
  • Empty refrigerators and freezers if electricity is shut off, and prop doors open with a rolled towel or newspaper to allow air circulation.
  • Pour antifreeze in toilet bowls, tanks, sink and tub drains to prevent freeze damage if heat is off in winter
  • Call a plumber to drain and blow out all water lines if heat is off in winter
  • Remove pets to a clean environment if heavy fire residues are present
  • Send a sample group of garments for cleaning and deodorization in order to observe the results
  • Retain a contractor to board up open windows, roofs, or other penetrations in order to prevent additional damage. Please note how important this is: if you do not secure your property correctly and an intruder gets hurt, you can still be sued.


  • Wipe or attempt to wash fire residues from walls, ceilings or other absorbent surfaces
  • Use carpeting or upholstered furniture impacted by heavy residues or debris
  • Use food items or canned goods exposed to heat
  • Turn on computers, TVs, stereos or electrical appliances until they have been cleaned and checked

If you have any questions about these instructions, or about how we are able to restore your Orange County home to its original state, please feel free to call us. We’re here 24/7 to help you after disaster strikes—our technicians are standing by to offer immediate assistance.

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