Returning Home After a Wildfire

If your home was affected by a wildfire, do not return home until authorities say it is safe. Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, ash pits and fallen power lines. Then take these first steps to inspect your home to ensure that you and your loved ones will be safe.

Inspecting your home

  • If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. Fires may cause breakers to trip. If the breakers are on and power is still not present, contact the utility company.
  • Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Wildfires may have left burning embers that could reignite.
  • For several hours afterward, recheck for smoke and sparks throughout the home, including the attic. The winds of wildfires can blow burning embers anywhere. Keep checking your home for embers that could cause fires.
  • Take precautions while cleaning your property. You may be exposed to potential health risks from hazardous materials.
  • Debris should be wet down to minimize health impacts from breathing dust particles.
  • Use a two-strap dust particulate mask with nose clip and coveralls for the best minimal protection.
  • Wear leather gloves to protect hands from sharp objects while removing debris. 
  • Wear rubber gloves when working with outhouse remnants, plumbing fixtures, and sewer piping. They can contain high levels of bacteria.
  • Hazardous materials such as kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel, and damaged fuel containers need to be properly handled to avoid risk. Check with local authorities for hazardous disposal assistance.
  • If you have a propane tank system, contact a propane supplier. Turn off valves on the system, and leave valves closed until the supplier inspects your system.
  • If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before using.
  • Visually check the stability of the trees. Any tree that has been weakened by fire may be a hazard.
  • Look for burns on the tree trunk. If the bark on the trunk has been burned off or scorched by very high temperatures completely around the circumference, the tree will not survive and should be considered unstable.
  • Look for burnt roots by probing the ground with a rod around the base of the tree and several feet away from the base. If the roots have been burned, you should consider this tree very unstable.
  • A scorched tree is one that has lost part or all of its leaves or needles. Healthy deciduous trees are resilient and may produce new branches and leaves as well as sprouts at the base of the tree. Evergreen trees may survive when partially scorched but are at risk for bark beetle attacks.

Here is a comprehensive list from the Red Cross of what to do when returning home and recovering after a wildfire

Click here for health and safety guidelines from the CDC for returning home after a wildfire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s