Someone once asked Me for recommendations on what to do, and what not to do, before and after a fire.
It has taken a Long While, but I think I am Ready to post My Observations.
First of all, Get Fire Insurance!
Sadly, Momma's parents had let it lapse after they paid off the mortgage. Get fire insurance and keep it up to date.
Secondly, I'd double whatever you have. Most apartment complexes in the Phoenix area require (or request) each tenant to have at least $100,000 coverage. Talk to your insurance agent, but I do not think that's enough - especially if there is more than one person in the household.
That amount might sound like a lot, but you would be shocked how quickly that disappears. You have rental deposits and new Everything.
Some things might be salvageable, but that takes time and cleaning.
One of Momma's oldest friends also had a house fire only One Month after Ours. They had a $100,000 policy. All of the professional cleaning and repairs came out of that $100,000.
All of it. He thought he'd have $100,000 to replace things.
He and his Husband were left with about $10,000 to replace all their clothes, food, toiletries, medicines, towels, sheets, beds, furniture, etc.
Trust us, that doesn't go far.
And that doesn't even begin to cover things that can't be replaced such as photographs, antiques, and Dolls.
If you are serious about your doll collection, look around. Vinyl Americans, such as I, and our things do not fare well during and after fires.
Vinyl can melt, and it absorbs the smoke and smell. Momma was not able to find anything that could save any of her vinyl dolls. She had collected dolls for nearly 50 years and within hours they were all gone or damaged beyond saving.
Clementine and I only survived because we were still in our TARDIS backpack. We were smoked and wet but salvageable. We still smell a bit though when warm or sniffed closely.
Momma was able to save only three smoke-damaged dolls:
A 30-year-old apple-headed doll is now darker and under a new glass dome.
A clay santons de provence doll her great-aunt sent her from France more than 40 years ago is damaged and darkened but will go in a shadowbox.
Finally, her aunt's 70-year-old composition doll, Belinda, was temporarily stored face down in Momma's dresser which saved her front half. The back is blackened, but the front is okay. Belinda is resting in my old, smoked and darkened bed. Momma will eventually put a small bonnet on her which will hide most of the visible damage.
Finally, a word about doll storage. Everything that was on a doll hanger in a closet was destroyed. Polyester and plastic melted and the fire and smoke damaged everything else. Plastic dry cleaner bags over clothes melted and bonded with the fibers.
Some of Momma's cotton clothes could be saved with minimal damage, but minimal damage on her outfit was complete on mine.
What worked the best? My outfits that were stored in sealed plastic zipper bags inside a plastic tub survived the best. Some smoke still invaded the plastic tub, but the zippered plastic bag was the final protection. Some shoe soles curved in the heat but were deemed useable.
Afterwards, Momma carefully emptied each outfit from its smoked bag into individual piles on a clean bed, WASHED HER HANDS, checked everything, then put everything back in new zippered bags in a new plastic tub. Used dryer sheets helped with any lingering odors.
Items stored in cardboard Pleasant Company and American Girl Boxes were useless.
Smoke got in every single doll trunk.
Kirsten's trunk and its contents were destroyed.
My trunk survived. It's darkened and a bit smoky, but most of the contents were salvageable.
Samantha's trunk protected some of its contents (with cleaning) but the trunk itself was tossed. The fabric cover absorbed everything.
Kit's leatherette trunk was severely darkened, but most of the contents could be saved.
The outside of Molly's metal trunk could be cleaned, and most of its contents saved, but the trunk was tossed due to too much interior smoke and water damage to the cardboard.
Make sure you have a fire AND WATER proof safe for important documents.
Have a neighbor that you know you can go to and make sure everyone knows who, what, and where. Another doll friend had a house fire a few months before ours, but the neighbor they went to closed the door in their faces and refused to help them!
In summary, get insurance, have a good safe, and put everything in plastic. Twice.
I truly hope you absolutely never, ever have to learn these lessons the hard way. Hopefully you can
Learn from our Mistakes.