House Fire Claims: How to Safeguard Your Home and What to Expect When the Unexpected Occurs

12:29 PM, Nov 08, 2020
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As the colder months arrive, we spend more time with our loved ones in our houses, some of us warming up by the fireplace or lighting candles to create a relaxing atmosphere. House fire maintenance is the last thing on our minds, but inattention to these risks breeds severe consequences.

“All fires have been devastating to my clients,” says State Farm agent Pam Hansen Alfred.

Here are some guidelines to follow for house fire prevention and next steps.

Candle Safety

The smell and coziness candles provide are a welcome décor choice for many homeowners, however, much like with any contained fire in the home, candles pose potential risks when safety protocols are ignored.

“Candles that reach a wicking point from repeated use in the same place in the home are a concern,” says Alfred.

Alfred explains, “The wicking point is when moisture is removed from an area such as behind a woodstove or on a ceiling where a candle has been burning in the same place for a long period of time. When the moisture is removed from a combustible surface it can start on fire.”

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) notes 37% of candle-induced home fires occurred in bedrooms. Never leave candles unattended in your home and never fall asleep with candles lit. Keep them away from any drafts or air currents. It is also important to keep candle wicks trimmed to 1/4 inch to prevent high flames from lighting nearby items on fire.

Wood Stoves and Fireplace Insert Installations

Woodstoves and fireplace inserts are experiencing a resurgence in modern homes because of their design appeal and efficiency, but generations unfamiliar with correct installation and upkeep increase their risk of house fires.

When installing a woodstove, it is important to consider the stove’s surroundings. “One of the top causes of home fires in Great Falls and Montana has been from woodstoves with faulty pipe installation, or stoves installed too close to combustible wall,” says Alfred.

Situating your woodstove or a gas, wood, or pellet fireplace insert where it will produce the most heat for the room is important, but do not overlook other details. Piping should be straight and short without an abundance of angles and should not pass through a combustible wall when feeding through a chimney flue.

The NFPA recommends a 36-inch clearance between a combustible wall or ceiling, while radiating-type wood stoves fall under different rules if they include an attached heat shield.

Before firing up your woodstove for the season, have it inspected for potential repairs. If you are not trained in chimney maintenance, hiring a chimney cleaning professional will ensure your safety and mitigate potential damages.

Pay Attention to Signs of Faulty or Outdated Wiring

Electrical house fires are another risk for homeowners. These losses can be prevented through homeowner vigilance. Watch for signs when you suspect your home’s electricity is not functioning properly. Common indicators include flickering or dimming lights, scorch marks or discoloration around outlets, outlets displaying warmth or vibrations, and smokey odors near outlets or your electrical panel. If you find your circuit breaker tripping or shutting off multiple times a month, consider this another warning sign.

These signs reveal faulty electrical wiring or wiring in need of upgrading to keep up with your usage. In either case, you are at risk for an electrical fire. Contact a professional electrician immediately and do not attempt to fix the issues yourself.

Address all Damages Caused by the Fire

Damages resulting from a house fire are often extensive and the destruction goes beyond the naked eye.

“First step after a house fire is to hire a company for the smoke damage and also the water damage that was caused by the firemen putting out the fire,” says Alfred.

In addition to these steps, a licensed contractor should be hired to thoroughly inspect the home. During the inspection structural damage, windows, plumbing, walls, roof, and other items will be addressed.

“The homeowner should also start preparing a list of damaged personal property following the fire,” adds Alfred.

Don’t Be Afraid to File a Claim

Your insurance company’s objective is to bring your house back to its original state. Whether the fire was accidentally caused by you or you have resulting damage from a neighboring fire, filing a homeowners insurance claim is the only true way to know how much damage your home has suffered and what it will take to fix it.

“We cover losses in the home regardless of whose fault it is as long as it wasn’t intentional,” says Alfred.

Alfred continues, “I had a claim where the details of the fire kept changing and I didn’t know why. It was a new home less than one year old. It was a split level with the furnace in the lower level. The homeowner was finishing the basement himself and had taken the cover off the furnace. He also had a cardboard scrap box of wood. He left the scrap box too close to the furnace that had the cover off where the furnace igniter was located. It lit the box on fire and destroyed the home. The kitchen was right above the lower level furnace and it was so bad that the appliances fell into the lower level. The reason I had a hard time getting a straight story from them was that they thought we wouldn’t cover it since it was their fault.”

For further assistance on your insurance needs, reach out to Pam Hansen Alfred and her team at (406) 453-6010, stop by their offices at 2817 10th Ave. So., or visit

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2817 10th Ave S
Great Falls, MT
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