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Clair Dickson
04-29-2009, 06:12 PM
I'm looking for information on what, exactly, happens after an apartment fire. In my story, the fire happens at night, the building is damaged enough that the residents are displaced.

Where do they go for the night? Does the landlord (apt. co) pay for it? How long does it take to get things sorted out and the residents moving to their temporary quarters for the night? Who directs this? (Complication-- the landlady is taken to the hospital because of smoke inhalation.)

Do the firefighters go through the apts-- when? I have a dead guy that needs to be found and need to figure out when, exactly, he'd be found. (It doesn't really matter when he's found, as he's not dead from the fire. =)

Then, lastly, how long would it take for the residents to be moved to new apartments? Does it depend on having renter's insurance (which my MC has, but not all the other apt. dwellers will.)

I've tried googling but only find articles on apartment fires, which don't quite answer my questions.

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-signs101.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org)

askcb
04-29-2009, 06:21 PM
I don't have any technical information for you, but I used to work in hotels and several times we had guests who had been in an apt fire. The Red Cross stepped in and the families were given hotel vouchers. I remember them coming in with a garbage bag or two of their things. I can't remember how long they would stay but it seems like a week or so. Maybe you could research the Red Cross?

Ol' Fashioned Girl
04-29-2009, 06:21 PM
If you're somewhere where there's Red Cross support, the Red Cross will relocate the victims immediately, either to an available shelter or to other apartments in the complex, or to hotels. The Red Cross has donated funds set aside for this kind - as well as other kinds - of disasters. If the victims have renters insurance, they'll have something called 'Loss of Use', which pays for a place for them to stay, food, etc., until they're back in their own apartment or until their maximum is reached on the insurance.

jclarkdawe
04-29-2009, 07:11 PM
I can answer this from the fire department side.


I'm looking for information on what, exactly, happens after an apartment fire. In my story, the fire happens at night, the building is damaged enough that the residents are displaced. As soon as we realize that the house/apartment is not going to be habitable, we notify fire alarm by radio, who then contacts the Red Cross. Frequently this will be done by Fire Command somewhere around thirty minutes to an hour after the first unit arrives, when Command has a lull from more pressing concerns.

Where do they go for the night? Initial thoughts will be contacting friends and relatives. We'll detail an EMT to start providing moral support and monitoring the family early on. People have collapsed in this sort of situation and we know the importance of giving them something to do. Does the landlord (apt. co) pay for it? No, the Red Cross has funds. How long does it take to get things sorted out and the residents moving to their temporary quarters for the night? Usually not until after the fire is completely out. If it is at all safe, we'll conduct a walk-through with the family. They need to see it to believe it. Who directs this? Fire department is in overall command, but tasks are delegated. Red Cross will handle most of this. (Complication-- the landlady is taken to the hospital because of smoke inhalation.) Not an issue.

Do the firefighters go through the apts-- when? We'll conduct a search immediately upon arriving on scene. We will also attempt to find out how many people were in the building and if they got out. I have a dead guy that needs to be found and need to figure out when, exactly, he'd be found. (It doesn't really matter when he's found, as he's not dead from the fire. =) Most people are found on the initial search. As a firefighter, this is a big part of the training. We know enough to look in toy boxes, and in beds (I can tell a bed from running an axe over the floor with my eyes closed). Assuming initial search can't be done because the building is too involved, once we get the fire under some level of control, we'll start searching into safe areas.

The more sure we are that someone was trapped, the more strenous will be our search. Longest search I've ever dealt with was we knew the woman was in the house, and we knew she hadn't been asleep in her bed although the fire occurred in the middle of the night. (Bed was made.)

What happened was she was sleeping on a sofa in the kitchen. The kitchen floor and ceiling had collapsed into the basement. We started pulling stuff from the basement until we discovered the body. At that point, we pulled back to assess the situation.

We ended up reinforcing the floor above us, then brought in the police photographer. He took pictures as we removed the remaining crap she was buried under. Once we had the body to where it was totally exposed, the coroner came in, took additional pictures and made her initial assessment. After she was done, she authorized us to remove the body.

Took us about two hours to find the body, and another three or four before we had it removed.

Then, lastly, how long would it take for the residents to be moved to new apartments? Does it depend on having renter's insurance (which my MC has, but not all the other apt. dwellers will.)

I've tried googling but only find articles on apartment fires, which don't quite answer my questions.

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-signs101.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org)

If you have more questions, feel free to send me a PM.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Clair Dickson
04-29-2009, 08:12 PM
Wow! Thanks all for this great information. I can feel the gears of the story working all ready.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-29-2009, 10:20 PM
Where do they go for the night? Neighbors, friends, or a hotel. Fire departments usually call the Red Cross or some other agency who does this for them.

Does the landlord (apt. co) pay for it? No, but later the tenants can ask for reimbursement if it was the landlord's fault.

How long does it take to get things sorted out and the residents moving to their temporary quarters for the night? Several hours.

Who directs this? The local agency - Red Cross or other.

(Complication-- the landlady is taken to the hospital because of smoke inhalation.) Not a problem.

Do the firefighters go through the apts-- when?

After the ruins are cool enough, which usually happens the next day. It's called "overhaul" ... they rake through the debris to make sure it's not smoldering, the arson guy comes in, the insurance guys come. The day or two after a fire is a very busy day.

They would have asked, "Did everyone get out?" about every apartment, and search those they can safely get into to make sure.

I have a dead guy that needs to be found and need to figure out when, exactly, he'd be found. The following day, maybe the day after that.

Then, lastly, how long would it take for the residents to be moved to new apartments? If there are undamaged, empty units in the complex, often it only takes a day or less. One recent fire in Phoenix, most of the tenants were moved by noon the next day to vacant apartments.

If the complex, or the management company, can't come up with equivalent housing, the leases would be void because the place was no longer inhabitable, the complex would hand back the deposits, and the tenants would start looking for new places.

Typically, anyone in the neighborhood with vacancies will call the FD or the RC and let them know they have a spot.

Does it depend on having renter's insurance (which my MC has, but not all the other apt. dwellers will.) Renter's insurance covers belongings, not relocation.

************
ADDING: If no one realizes your character was in the complex, or if they lie and say everyone's out of the unit, there might not be the focused search Jim described. If the building or part of it is already unsafe to search, it won't be searched until they can make it safe.

So you can have him found anytime from right after the FD arrives until a couple of days later.

In an extreme example, if no one has reported the dead guy missing, and there is no reason to believe there is a body in the ruins, you could get away with having him be found during demolition by the clean-up contractor.

jclarkdawe
04-29-2009, 11:07 PM
Do the firefighters go through the apts-- when?

After the ruins are cool enough, which usually happens the next day. It's called "overhaul" ... they rake through the debris to make sure it's not smoldering, the arson guy comes in, the insurance guys come. The day or two after a fire is a very busy day.

Overhaul is started as soon as the fire is out. We tear down walls, ceilings, move things, checking anything and everything that is warm and might be hiding a fire. It's very embarrassing to head home and have a fire rekindle. We'll also be searching during this process. (Actually, we're constantly searching.)

Overall depends a lot on what's left. If the structure has fallen into the basement, overhaul consists of several guys holding hoses and flooding the basement. We won't go around raking it, unless we need to investigate for something, like a body. If walls are still standing, and we can work safely (remembering that a fire fighter's definition of safety is vastly different from a normal person's), we'll be getting up close and personal.

As Tsu says, the next day is very, very busy. And if there is a victim of the fire, it's treated as a crime scene until proven otherwise. However, if the fire is in the middle of the night, the investigation might be the next afternoon.

They would have asked, "Did everyone get out?" about every apartment, and search those they can safely get into to make sure.

If we're looking for a body (people want to know this quickly) or even more so, a possible survivor. we'll take risks that would not normally be tolerated. Remember that firefighters run into burning buildings while normal people are leaving.

ADDING: If no one realizes your character was in the complex, or if they lie and say everyone's out of the unit, there might not be the focused search Jim described. If the building or part of it is already unsafe to search, it won't be searched until they can make it safe.

This is an important point. If the building has collapsed and we don't think there's anything important in there, we're going to leave it for the guy with the big backhoe. Assuming there is no smell, this could be weeks. And depending on the situation, rather than remove the debris, the backhoe guy could call his friend with a dump truck and just bury the whole mess. Of course, if there is a smell, we'd get to go back and start digging, but this would take a week or more, probably, before the smell is noticable.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Clair Dickson
04-30-2009, 02:06 AM
http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-signs153.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org)

Thanks again!

JulieHowe
04-30-2009, 02:36 AM
The Red Cross usually coordinates temporary housing. I've known property owners who handed out checks at the scene of a disaster, refunding full security deposits and even partial-month's rent.


Insurance payouts are the last thing to happen.

Sean D. Schaffer
04-30-2009, 01:53 PM
I'm looking for information on what, exactly, happens after an apartment fire. In my story, the fire happens at night, the building is damaged enough that the residents are displaced.

Where do they go for the night? Does the landlord (apt. co) pay for it? How long does it take to get things sorted out and the residents moving to their temporary quarters for the night? Who directs this? (Complication-- the landlady is taken to the hospital because of smoke inhalation.)

Do the firefighters go through the apts-- when? I have a dead guy that needs to be found and need to figure out when, exactly, he'd be found. (It doesn't really matter when he's found, as he's not dead from the fire. =)

Then, lastly, how long would it take for the residents to be moved to new apartments? Does it depend on having renter's insurance (which my MC has, but not all the other apt. dwellers will.)

I've tried googling but only find articles on apartment fires, which don't quite answer my questions.

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-signs101.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org)


I don't know if this will help or not, but our building had a fire about nine months ago. The tenant locked himself out while a candle was burning on his coffee table, and the results were not pretty. Most of the damage done was water damage from the sprinklers, and of course smoke damage. The gentleman had to stay in his mother's house for a couple months while management went to work repairing the damage. No other residents were displaced, I don't think, although the gentleman directly below where the fire took place did have some amount of water damage to his own place (the fire dept. took thirty minutes to get here and waited to shut the sprinklers off until the assistant manager could open the door for them, so the sprinklers from upstairs put so much water onto the fire that it leaked into the bottom floor).

Because the fire took place during the first year of tenancy, and because the stuff in the apartment was still under warranty, the tenant did not have to pay for the damages done. But according to the manager here, once the first year is up, it's up to the tenants to pay for damages done....which is really stupid, considering we're all low-income here. :rolleyes: Idiots.

JrFFKacy
05-01-2009, 08:41 AM
I live in a rural area where we don't have apartments, and I'm a rookie, so my knowledge is limited. But, I'll tell you what I know.

If the building is fully involved (meaning completely on fire), and it's likely stuff is going to start collapsing, we're not going in, regardless of who's in there. We'll use a techinque called 'Surround and Drown' meaning you keep rolling tankers full of water to the scene and pouring water on the structure from the outside.

Overhaul begins the moment the fire is considered 'under control'. The Police are usually called in right away, in case we find something suspicious, and will be called in again later if we find something after they leave (FFs and Cops don't tend to get along too good in this area, so the Cops rarely hang around out scenes any longer than that have to).

One thought I had was, how big of a fire was this? Because the body could be very damaged if the fire was close to it. Burn victims sometimes require DNA to identify them.

Sean D. Schaffer: Now you know the dangers of leaving a candle unattended!

We have a organization called VCARS who take care of displaced people. Our FD dealt with a bomb threat at the end of December and they came to check on the people we evacuated. Turned out the bomb wasn't really a bomb and the people returned to their homes five hours after the evacuation (which took place in the middle of the afternoon, so no one was out on the street in the middle of the night). If we have a fire scene where the homeowner doesn't have family/friends nearby that they can call on, we will radio Fire Dispatch and the Dispatcher will get us the necessary people (Red Cross, VCARS, etc). Scene Command is responsible for seeing to this.