5 Questions to Ask After a Kitchen Fire

Kitchen fires are the most reported home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This isn’t surprising, given the number of frequently used appliances, flammable materials, and distractions that can happen in that room. You can prepare to handle these claims with confidence by asking five key questions to guide you toward the best next steps.

Range Fire

Range cooktops like this one are a common origin point of kitchen fires.

Question 1: How is your policyholder affected?

The claim process starts with the policyholder, and if the fire was in their home, they’re dealing with some stress. They probably have their own unanswered questions that extend beyond origin and cause, and even beyond the claim itself. It’s important to listen to their concerns with empathy and compassion to establish (or maintain) a solid foundation. No matter what the outcome of this claim is, trust is crucial to your relationship with your policyholders.

Learn when you’re most likely to see kitchen fire claims and more in our guide.

Question 2: Who’s performing your onsite investigation?

Answer this question as early as possible in the claim process because your choice in vendors will affect everything moving forward. Hopefully you already have an established list of trusted property assessment partners. If not, start with some research. Look at credentials, processes, and customer service to find certified fire investigators who can provide accurate and timely answers.

Many certified fire investigators have experience working directly in or with fire departments; some are still active firefighters. They’re familiar with fire scenes and approach each investigation using NFPA guidelines that apply the scientific method. This ensures that their origin and cause answers are reliable and backed by evidence.

And when it comes to evidence, you need an expert who knows what to secure and how. An established vendor will also have connections with labs for storage and further investigation, including any necessary joint studies.

Secured Evidence

Well-qualified origin and cause experts are diligent about protecting evidence like this range that must be shipped for inspection offsite.

Question 3: How soon can your expert assess the damage?

Timing is everything when it comes to the integrity of an investigation. You know the importance of evidence, and kitchen fire scenes are especially prone to change quickly because of firefighting efforts, restoration efforts, and multiple assessing parties involved. Depending on the damage, the residents may even be living in the home and moving around the affected kitchen.

Find out from the insured what the condition of the scene is following the fire. Ask for photographs of the loss site, and stress to them the importance of making as few changes to it as possible. Your expert should schedule an inspection as close to the date of loss as they can to minimize scene impact.

Confirm with your expert that they are documenting everything at the loss site; they should provide notes and photos upon request.

To learn what to expect from your fire investigators from start to finish, check out this guide.

Question 4: Who else is involved in the investigation?

It’s unlikely that you and your expert will be the only parties assessing the scene. In some claims, there may be other insurance companies and their representatives to consider, as well as public adjusters, contractors, responding fire departments, and product manufacturers’ investigators. Working professionally with these people is a hallmark of a fire expert who knows more than just the nuts and bolts of an investigation.

Once multiple parties have a stake in the investigation, coordination is key. Legal issues can ensue if there’s a perception of scene manipulation, evidence spoliation, or any deliberately withheld information. Your expert and their customer service team can help ensure all parties have the opportunity to investigate an unspoiled fire scene.

Certified fire investigators also search for product information for any documented recalls or defects on involved appliances. If any are found, the fire investigator will set up a joint study in a lab with a representative from the manufacturer. 

Documentation is also a safeguard against misunderstandings with other parties, so verify that your onsite representative is committed to keeping detailed and copious records of their work.

04  Kitchen Fire Damage 1

All parties want the opportunity to document the scene in all its messy detail to get accurate answers to origin and cause questions.

Question 5: Do witness statements match the evidence?

Because kitchen fires often occur when someone is home, witness statements can provide information for the investigation. However, these statements don’t trump physical evidence.

Even witnesses with the best intentions don’t have perfect memories, especially in times of stress. However, interview skills are a key asset and something to look for when deciding which fire investigation service to use. A certified investigator will know what questions to ask, what phrases to listen for, and what evidence to look for to confirm statements.

Read this case study to find out how evidence can lead to unexpected conclusions in a kitchen equipment fire investigation.

The Unifying Factor

You might have noticed a pattern by now; all of these questions hinge on who you choose as your expert. This choice can affect timing, evidence, communication, and the accuracy of the origin and cause results.

Donan’s certified fire investigators strive to complete an onsite inspection as early as possible to avoid scene spoliation, to secure all evidence, and to treat all involved parties with professional consideration while adhering to NFPA guidelines. Submit an assignment to find out how a Donan investigation can help you take your next steps with confidence.