One of the most terrifying events imaginable is the destruction of property–or even life–in a fire. Even if everyone makes it out okay, you know that many of your cherished memories and probably some valuables are gone forever. There are some things that insurance money simply cannot replace. Even though this possibility is scary, sometimes knowing that it’s happening to people you care about is just as bad. What happens when you look next door and there’s smoke pouring from inside your neighbor’s house? It can be difficult to know what to do during a time of panic, and you’ll want to know how to help the most.
First, don’t assume that someone else will call 911. Don’t wait in an effort to find out if it’s already been done, either. Do it yourself, and do it right away. Second, do not put yourself in danger. Legally, it’s best to help from outside. Putting yourself in harm’s way could make the problem even worse. If your neighbors escape through the back door but you go in the front, someone might then come looking for you. Keep in mind that if any help you provide actually results in more damage to the property or even surrounding homes, you might be liable for whatever your neighbor’s insurance does not cover. Even if you’re just trying to help, you have to think about your own wellbeing too.
Things can get more complicated the bigger the fire becomes, especially in a densely packed residential area. Sometimes a fire will move from one home to the next, and in this case liability becomes a primary concern for everyone affected. If your own home was damaged because of a fire at a neighbor’s home, then be sure to document the area as best you can, and provide a full report of whatever happened to the authorities. After that, submit a request to your own homeowners insurance. They might cover some of the damages, or they might hassle your neighbor’s insurance company to cover the costs. Either way, it shouldn’t remain your responsibility.
The same is true if your neighbor’s negligence caused your own home to catch fire. In the worst case it could turn into a criminal issue, but that’s for the authorities to decide. Do your best to provide a true and unbiased accounting to any questions you might be asked by police or insurance investigators. These questions might be extremely uncomfortable, but they’ll save everyone a lot of trouble down the road.
That’s it. There’s not much you can do if your neighbor’s house is on fire. Call the authorities, provide whatever first aid you can a safe distance away from the burning home, and let firefighters do their work. Then again, if your neighbors ask for your garden hose–turn on the water.
Here is a video of someone’s neighbor’s house on fire – quite a scary event!