What should I do after a fire to recover family treasures?

Professional conservators offer several basic guidelines for searching for and recovering family treasures in the ruins of a fire. Once you are allowed to reenter the fire area, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Your first priority is safety. Before moving into a fire-damaged building or area, be sure it is safe to enter.
  • Wear protective clothing, including nitrile or latex gloves, face masks, and eye protection.
  • Avoid breathing in or touching hazardous materials. These include particulates, exposed asbestos, building

How do I clean items that have been in a fire?

Many items that have been in a fire may be salvaged. Your first thought may be to rinse the items. Don’t do it!

Water and other cleaning solutions will drive soot and ash further into the surface of your items. They will become impossible to remove.


  • Vacuum the soot and ash off your items. If possible, use a HEPA filter in the vacuum.
  • Wait until wet or damp items are dry before vacuuming.
  • Reduce the suction on your vacuum