[10 on Tuesday] Preventing and Responding to Fires at Historic Homes


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Fire. It’s a small word, but a dangerous threat to historic structures. Once a building burns, it’s changed forever, which means the walls, furniture, and unique historic elements lose their original ability to tell their full story. And historic preservation is nothing if not about preserving the stories places tell.

Prevention is key. The following toolkit offers some tips and suggestions for both fire prevention and clean up at historic properties.


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[10 on Tuesday] Preventing and Responding to Fires at Historic Homes

  1. Fire Prevention & Response10 Fire Safety Tips for Historic Property Owners Photo courtesy of starmanseries, Flickr
  2. 1. Do a fire inspection.Conduct your own fire prevention check. Makesure there are appropriate safety measures inplace, such as fire alarms, sprinkler systems,and fire extinguishers kept handy.Photo courtesy of sayrouk123, Flickr
  3. 2. Take extra holiday precautions.During the holidays, be mindful of how you decorate and watch outfor fire hazards such as tangled cords, overloaded outlets, or lightsand candles kept too close to fabric or dry pine needles. Don’tforget to turn off those Christmas tree lights when you leave thehouse. Photo courtesy of State Farm , Flickr
  4. Photo courtesy of Loco Steve, Flickr3. Store documents in a fireproof safe.Keep your important paperwork, such as documents on thehistory of your property, in a fireproof safe. That way, ifdisaster were to strike, you will have all the info you need foran accurate restoration.
  5. 4. Know that every fire is different.And no one understands these differences better than aprofessional. The best step you can take to ensure your historichome is taken care of after a fire is to hire a professional. Contactyour local or state preservation office for recommendations. Photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass, Flickr
  6. 5. Talk to the firemen.Tell the responders that your houseis older or historic and any otherinformation that might be helpful.This can keep them safe as well asmitigate damage to your home afterthe fire is out. Photo courtesy of gtall1, Flickr
  7. 6. Check for smoke, sparks, & embers.Once you’re allowed back inside your house, check the roof andeach floor for smoke, sparks, or embers, and inspect for structuraldamage. Emergency responders should do this, but it’s a good ideato check again. Photo courtesy of Anthony Quintano, Flickr
  8. 7. Have systems checked.Get your heating, propane, and water systemstested before using them again. Fire can causecontamination, lead to dangerous chainreactions, or damage filters.Photo courtesy of PinkMoose, Flickr
  9. 8. Prevent further damage.Help prevent future damage post-fire -- such aswater infiltration from rain, snow, or ice -- bycovering roofs, windows, and doorways withtemporary tarps.Photo courtesy of Hugo90, Flickr
  10. 9. Brace unstable elements.Brace (or, if you can do so safely,remove) unstable building elementssuch as walls, ceilings, or chimneys.This will help prevent collapse andgive you time while you wait for aprofessional or figure out next steps. Photo courtesy of Robert Tewart, Flickr
  11. Photo courtesy of MDG26, Flickr user.10. Get the air flowing.Get air flowing throughout the house to remove residualsmoke or fumes. Turn on fans and open windows. Take extracaution if there is loose ash or debris that could becomeairborne and harmful.
  12. Ten on Tuesday features ten preservationtips each week. For more tips, visitblog.PreservationNation.org.