Guidance for residents returning to their homes after destructive fires.

Homeowners should be aware of the immediate and long-term health risks associated with exposure to residential wildfire ash and debris. 

Residential wildfire debris may contain some or all of the following:

  • Tiny particles of dust, dirt and soot that can easily become airborne and inhaled.
  • Toxic amounts of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and mercury.
  • Asbestos.
  • Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, cleaning products, pesticides, and herbicides.

Reducing your exposure while sifting through residential wildfire debris may not be prohibited but for your safety and the safety of others, it is not recommended.  In addition to irritating your skin, nose, and throat, substances like asbestos and cadmium have been known to cause cancer. Property owners who want to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution and with proper protective gear.

  • Avoid disturbing debris or kicking up ash.
  • NIOSH-Certified air purifying respirator masks are highly recommended. A mask rated N-95 is more effective at blocking particles.
  • Wear gloves, long shirts, pants, safety eyewear or any other protective clothing.
  • Change shoes and clothing as soon as you are off-site to avoid contaminating your vehicle, home, or other non-contaminated areas.
  • Even with protective clothing and masks, children should not be exposed to wildfire ash or debris.