They were there before the fire and during the fire. Now county fire officials will be there after the fire.
In a new program started this summer, the county fire department is providing assistance to victims after their homes or businesses burn. Battalion chiefs who respond to fire scenes now give victims a copy of a U.S. Fire Administration booklet that provides tips on what to do after a fire. Victims also are given the phone number of the county's fire education officer and encouraged to call him if they need further help.
Captain J. Gary Scheckells, the department's public information officer, said the booklets had been available in the past if someone asked for them, but the department decided this summer to be more forthright in assisting people after the fire.
"We felt we were lacking something," he said.
In the past, fire department activities have been limited to fire prevention education, inspections and fire fighting. Adding a follow-up component made sense, the captain said.
"We can provide guidance at a time when you're most devastated. This allows us more interaction with the citizens."
The booklets are provided at no cost by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They explain what fire victims can do if they are not insured, explain typical insurance coverage, give tips on estimating property damage, and even home-made remedies for removing smoke from clothing and household items.
Captain Scheckells said so far only a few booklets have been distributed and no victims have called the department requesting further assistance. As the fall and winter approaches with increased risks of dwelling fires, the program will probably see more action, he said.