Fire Hazard: Can I salvage food stuffs in my house after a fire?

Monday, August 31st, 2020 by Robert Rowe

House Fire Damage


Cleaning Up After a Fire

In most cases, food in commercially sealed, unopened, uncontaminated metal cans is all that can be salvaged after a house fire. Carefully inspect all cans for any signs of swelling or change of shape. It’s also usually possible to restore non-permeable kitchen tools, such as silverware, utensils, cookware, and dishware. Make canned food and cutlery safe again by cleaning and sanitizing them.

Food that has spoiled or been contaminated by fumes or chemicals may not look or smell any different. This does not mean that it is safe to eat

  • Dispose of any food that looks charred or burned.
  • Throw away raw food stored outside the refrigerator.
  • Dispose all food stored at room temperature, including flour, sugar, and spices.
  • Discard food stored in cardboard, plastic, bottles, and screw-topped jars.
  • Dispose of food kept in the refrigerator or freezer if the power was out for longer than two hours.
  • Discard food that has been exposed to smoke, fumes, heat, or chemicals, even if stored in sealed jars or cans.
  • Throw out one-time-use plastic ware.

Why Does A House Fire Make Food Unsafe?

Even if food isn’t burned in a fire, it may not be safe to consume after the flames have been put out. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Smoke and fumes: Fires give off toxic smoke and fumes. In fact, these are the most dangerous aspects of a house fire and can contaminate food and beverages. Materials such as carpet, plastics, vinyl or linolium flooring, synthetic fabrics give off highly toxic fumes while burning and settle as high dangerous soot when the fire is out
  2. Heat: The elevated temperatures during a house fire can spoil food in sealed jars or cans. Jars and cans may not look as though they were damaged, charred, but the higher temperature may have effected the contents.  If you cook such items and it tastes "off" or irritates your mouth, throw it away.
  3. Firefighting chemicals: Fire extinguishers contain chemicals that are effective at dousing flames but are toxic to humans. Fire fighting foam and other products used by the fire department are often toxic as well.

The bottom line is when in doubt, throw it out!

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