A house fire is more than just dangerous. It is one of the most upsetting and emotional experiences you can have. Even the smallest such event can leave the home full of acrid smoke, the odor of which can linger for long after the last spark is out. The result can be smoke damage to your belongings that is as serious and devastating as the fire damage but is worse because it happens throughout the house, far beyond where the actual fire was.

The most important thing you can do to minimize smoke damage is to take action right away. After the fire department has cleared your home for you to enter, take these steps to protect your contents and home as much as possible.

1. Remove Everything You Can
After a fire, broken windows and doors can render your home vulnerable to thieves, so it’s a good idea to carry out as many of your belongings as you can and store them in a secure location. This is also beneficial for minimizing smoke damage to everything from books to clothing. The longer upholstery, clothing, and other porous materials remain in a smoky environment, the more damage will result.

2. Allow Fresh Air In
An important step in cutting your losses to smoke is to introduce as much fresh air as possible. Open all the windows and doors, and allow air to enter the attic, crawlspace, and basement. Open closet doors as well, and use a fan to stir up the air and flush out lingering smoke. If your heating and cooling system works, turn on its fan and run it continuously. Be sure to replace all filters before and after this step.

3. Remove Sources of Smoke
The fire department should have removed most smoldering materials, but a few items may still be around. Piles of clothing, especially synthetic fibers, can smolder for hours or days after the fire seems to be out. Carefully remove anything that appears to be producing smoke and put it away from the house so that it can burn out without causing further damage.

4. Start Cleanup
Contact your insurance company after the fire, and discuss cleanup immediately. Get a clear statement of what work can be done before the adjuster visits so that you can get smoke and fire damage experts in Phoenix into the house and start the process of rebuilding your life.