In the wake of a bushfire, it can be incredibly daunting to return home. It’s difficult to anticipate what you’ll find. If you have been given the all-clear to return by emergency services, you need to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself and your family for the changes to your home and community. If you live alone, you may want to bring someone with you when you first return to provide support through this difficult time.
Even after a fire has passed, there is a risk of flareups. It is important to keep up to date and follow instructions. Visit Emergency WA, DFES Facebook or call the DFES emergency information line on 13 DFES (13 3337). Updates will also be provided through your local ABC radio.
The information below will point you in the right direction for emergency accommodation and advice on securing your home.
During this time, it is very important to look after your wellbeing. Refer to the wellbeing section below for tips and links to support organisations.
When returning home, exercise extreme caution on the road, as roadblocks may still be in place. Police-managed roadblocks are for your safety, and for emergency services to have safe access to the fire.
We all have personal items we value and special things we need in life. After a fire, these are important to have if not damaged.
If parts of your home have not been destroyed and it is safe to enter, you may want to retrieve family items and essential documents. Although it will be emotionally difficult, having these things can help you deal with the overall trauma of loss.
If your personal documents have been partially damaged, the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials can provide further information on how you can salvage your family’s precious belongings.
Key items to try to locate include (if you don’t already have them):
When you enter your home, do it safely and wear appropriate safety equipment like gloves and sturdy boots.
Contact your insurance company to report any damage or loss as soon as you can. They will need to send an assessor to your property to process your claim. Depending on their advice, you may be able to begin repairs and any rebuilding. Check with your insurance company before you enter a contract with cleaning or repair contractors, to avoid additional bills.
If you are a tenant and have contents insurance contact your insurer, in addition to telling your real estate agent, owner, landlord or Department of Communities Housing Authority.
If you need emergency accommodation, check to see if this is covered in your insurance policy.
If you cannot remember the name of your insurance company or the details are not available, you can contact the Insurance Council of Australia on 1300 728 228.
Traumatic experiences such as being involved in a fire can be sudden and overwhelming. It is normal for people to feel unsettled and disrupted for a while. In most cases there are no signs of physical injury, but there can be a serious emotional toll. Some symptoms can include depression, anxiety, sadness, anger, fatigue, nightmares and difficulty concentrating.
Children and teenagers can also suffer from stress following a fire. Understanding and recognising your child’s responses to these events can assist you in providing support and helping them to cope effectively with the feelings, thoughts and behaviours they are experiencing.
If you find you do not return to your normal routine after a few weeks it is important to seek professional help.
Following a fire, your beloved pets and livestock will be part of your immediate concern.
If you have safe and authorised access to your property, ensure that animals continue to have access to adequate shelter, food and water, and check that they are not exposed to any hazards.
If your pets or animals have suffered any injuries or trauma, try to deal with these without delay. While it may be distressing to see them suffering, there is help available for you.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development provides information on recovery for animals after emergencies and farm recovery after a fire. You could also contact your local veterinarian.