What should we do since our house burned down with everything we own?
August 30, 2018 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Our house burned down, leaving us with very little. No one was injured, praise be. We won't be hit too hard financially, but don't know how to go about recovering from this kind of disaster.

This Sunday on our last night of a much-needed vacation we got a phone call from our 19 year-old that our house was on fire. Fortunately, no humans or pets were harmed in the blaze, though our cat ran off and we haven't found her yet. The fire department (um, mostly) put out the fire late at night, and wet down the house again at 2:00am, but the house reignited at about 5:30am.

When we got home Monday morning, our house was totally destroyed. and we have almost nothing left to our names but our dog, our car and the suitcases and bags full of clothes, sex toys, booze and toiletries that we brought on vacation with us. The remains of the house are basically a floor covered in huge piles of wet soot with a clay-like consistency that makes it hard to sift through to find any jewelry or anything that might be there, with 1/3 of a charred roof over it.

Insurance will be covering a significant amount of the rebuilding, and the contents of the house were mostly insured, and we have several months of rent/living expenses also covered. Additionally some dear friends set us up a fundraiser webpage, which has been super-helpful. So, while money isn't "not a problem," it isn't our most pressing problem.

Our most pressing problem is that we don't know how to handle all of this. What order should we be doing things in? Is our insurance company going to be a pain? How do we direct and organize all the wonderful folks that have said "what can I do to help?" How do we move forward with our jobs and life and stuff in this transient state and also rebuild without going mad? In a nutshell, what are Best Practices for dealing with the loss of all our stuff and the house we kept it in?

Thanks in advance to this community for your thoughtful answers.
posted by Cookiebastard to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is the most helpful guide I have ever seen to your situation This is well worth a read. Good luck with everything, and especially your cat.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 8:05 PM on August 30, 2018 [23 favorites]

Oh, crap. Condolences, and I hope you find kitteh.

Lots of good info in this previous ask. Helped my neighbor after their loss.

For what it’s worth, I nabbed their lost cat by enlisting the watchful eyes of neighbors, then doing my cat-whisperer thing. Your immediate neighbors asking to help? Give them photos of your cat and ask them to do neighborhood outreach. You will likely be elsewhere when kitty reappears. Also, a baited humane trap on your property, with neighbors checking repeatedly, may be what nabs your cat.

Good luck, and I’m glad the humans and pup are safe.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 8:05 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry for the losses you have suffered.

Collect any photos you have that were taken inside your house. These will help document to insurance the space you had, the furnishings, and objects that can be replaced.

Start making lists.

-Things you need right away.
-Important documents that were lost.
-Things you need in the medium term, like different clothing as the season changes.

Ensure you understand the terms if your insurance policy. It's easy for your insurance contact to offer reassurance, but your policy has limitations for various categories of spending, from accommodation, food, clothing, etc, and time limitations on the same. Get to know what those limitations are. They're sort of your budget for this period.
posted by thenormshow at 8:10 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

FEMA (2016) suggests contacting your local disaster relief service, such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, and offers a checklist of next steps after a house fire. The Red Cross offers an overview of disaster relief and recovery services that include staying safe, checking your home's safety, recovering emotionally, and recovering financially, as well as an online directory of local chapters that can be searched by location.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:50 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

This might seem like a largely useless comment, but let me say that in twelve years of writing about personal-finance, the best info I've ever found on this subject came from that Reddit link in the very first comment. I came here to send you there myself. Let me urge you to be sure to read that material and not to skip it.
posted by jdroth at 7:25 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, this is some great stuff to get started with.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:47 AM on August 31, 2018

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