Whether your home is insured or not, being victim to a fire is devastating. There are often so many things we take for granted until they are lost. Replacing them can be overwhelming and in some instances, impossible. During these tough times, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Communities often come together to help those affected; however, there are also specific disaster relief agencies set up to help you through this. We’ll walk you through what these agencies offer and how you can reach them as you navigate this difficult time.
Typically, in the case of a house fire, the fire department immediately contacts the local Red Cross on your behalf. They are not a government program. Red Cross is a private company that runs off of donations. They help in many situations ranging from major national disasters to single-family house fires. They are sometimes referred to as a “24-hour business” because they are the fastest acting source of aid (regardless of the time of disaster). Their objective is to take care of your most immediate needs following a tragedy.
They typically provide help by making sure the people in need have food, clothing, shelter (typically in the form of a few-day voucher at a hotel), and replacement medical devices/prescriptions. In some cases, they will even provide a caseworker to help you sort through referrals for additional assistance as needed. They can even help find temporary care for your pets. In the event that you can return to stay in your home, they often provide help with cleanup kits.
If you need urgent help with necessities, this organization is the best go-to. Even if your local fire department does not call on your behalf, they can almost always give you the local number so you can get help quickly.
The next helpful agency is a Christian-based service organization called Salvation Army. Just like Red Cross, they are not a government program, so they rely heavily on donations. They are a great resource for both quick relief and long-term help while you’re getting back on your feet.
Typically, they require an application to ensure you qualify for assistance. Because of this, they are most helpful a couple of days after the disaster rather than immediately. Their main mission is to ensure survivors have meals, clothing and shelter. They can help with short-term housing in the form of hotels (or temporary shelter in the event of wide-spread devastation). Similar to Red Cross, they can also provide fire victims with clean up kits to get back into their home quickly if it’s structurally sound.
Where this organization differs is in helping victims restore their homes and lives long-term. They provide counseling by trained officers, staff, and volunteers to help ease back into life with emotional stability. In addition, they help financially by offering grants for those who qualify and by giving out vouchers for furniture, home goods, etc. to replace lost items. To reach Salvation Army for help, you can call 1-800-728-7825. They will direct you to your local post.
This final disaster-relief agency has the most limitations, but depending on the situation, can be extremely helpful. FEMA is a government program that assists those affected by natural or national disasters. According to FEMA’s website, you must be impacted by a “presidentially declared disaster” such as a wildfire or hurricane to qualify for assistance through this agency.
In those cases, they aim to provide short-term housing and some type of rental or mortgage assistance. They don’t provide much help for repairs or moving forward other than for rare qualifiers of the Individuals and Household’s Program. If you suffered from an individual house fire rather than a national disaster, FEMA won’t be able to provide much direct assistance; however, they can help you find other local resources to aid in your recovery.
To be clear, the best help you can get in the event of a single-family house fire is from the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and your local community. If you are the victim of a tragedy, tell your local paper about your story. They may be able to drum up neighborhood support. And just as everything else in life, keep your head up and remember this too shall pass.