Boarding must be done quickly after fires

WARREN — Homes that catch fire should be properly secured by a professional company within an hour after the fire department leaves, according to the owner of a local business that specializes in recovery.

“Boarding a house is more than just covering the doors and windows,” said Paul Clouser, owner of National Fire and Water Repair in downtown Warren.

“It is getting anything that may cause a danger to others secured, including removing any loose aluminum siding and things that may be hanging from the house. You want to address anything that may cause a liability to the property owner.”

Clouser also said placing a tarp on the structure’s roof when necessary, covering holes in the side of properties and making efforts to dry out the property to minimize mold growth should be done.

Matt Martin is executive director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, whose organization has boarded up hundreds of abandoned homes that have been turned over to the county land bank for demolition or sale. Martin said vacant homes should be boarded as soon as possible.

“While we do not do private board-ups, we know there is a need to get homes that will be left empty, whatever the cause, boarded up ASAP,” Martin said. “I’ve always heard that over the course of five hours, $50,000 worth of damage can be done.”

Martin said the boardings should be done in a way that makes it as difficult as possible to remove the wood. The wood should be cut so it fits snugly in the interior of the frame, so screwdrivers or brace bars cannot get behind them.

“Do it in such as way to make the removal of the boards as difficult and as noisy as possible,” Martin said.

If the property still has electricity, Martin recommends having an alarm system placed on the house, especially if the home is in good shape. Also, going to the house daily at different times may be helpful in deterring “opportunity crime,” Martin said.

In addition, fire victims should be aware of predators looking to take advantage of people when they are the most frantic and confused, Clouser said.

“It is more than people who will break into your home and steal what’s inside,” Clouser said. “There are unethical contractors that prey on the property owners. I’ve seen contractors arrive at the scene of the fire within a couple hours, even before the media reports the fire. These contractors are listening to scanners to get on the scene before anyone else.”

“Don’t sign anything until you’ve spoken to your insurance company or your adjuster,” Clouser said.

“Find a reputable company to work with.”