Use these tips to protect yourself when returning to damaged or destroyed structures.
-Do not enter the structure if there is any danger of a structural failure or collapse.
-If your home was partially damaged, check for any visible structural damage that was caused by this fire. Roofs and floors may be damaged and subject to collapse. The foundation of your home and any brick or cement fireplace chimneys can be severely damaged by the heat from this fire. The concrete foundation of your home may be cracked and leaning or look like it will actually fall down. It is a very unsafe place for you to be trying to retrieve any items, or even climb down to try to see what damage may have occurred. Take all appropriate precautions to protect you and your family.
What hazards should I watch for?
-Slip, trip and fall hazards from unstable structures, open pits or wet and slippery surfaces.
-Sharp objects such as nails, metal, concrete or wood debris.
-Ash, soot and demolition dust.
-Hazardous materials such as kitchen and bathroom cleaning products as well as paint, batteries and fuel containers, which have been partially damaged or destroyed.
-Confined or poorly ventilated areas, where carbon monoxide may be present from the operation of pumps, generators or pressure washers. Be careful entering tight spaces.
-Pesticides or herbicide containers potentially damaged or destroyed.
-Propane cylinders for heating or from BBQs.
What personal protective equipment (PPE) should I use to enter burned out areas?
-Use PPE when entering your home. In particular, people with asthma or respiratory conditions should only spend short periods of time in these areas and wear respiratory protection.
-Use N95-rated masks to help filter out and reduce exposure to fine dust particles such as ash, soot and other nuisance-type particles. A mask rated N95, when properly fitted, will be more effective than a dust mask in blocking particles from ash.
-Look for “NIOSH 95” on the package. N95 means the mask blocks about 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger.
-Purchase N95 masks at hardware, safety/construction supply businesses and home improvement centers.
-Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves and boots when sifting through ruins or inspecting damaged property
-Do not try to turn utilities back on until they have been checked first by your local utility provider and they have told you it is safe to do so. It is possible your local government and utility service providers may have had to turn off the supply of natural gas, electricity and drinking water as a result of this fire.
-Do not try to use any electrical appliances or power in your home or garage that may have come in contact with fire, water or fire retardant until they have been checked and cleared for use by a qualified electrician.
-Visually check the stability of the trees around your property. Look for damage on the tree trunk or for visible damage of burned tree roots. Any trees that have been damaged by fire may soon become another hazard. They will need to be cut down and removed.
-Stay away from damaged or fallen power lines and power poles. Wet down any ashes, debrief to minimize breathing dust partials and soot
-If you or any of your family members have breathing difficulties or asthma, take all appropriate precautions to protect yourself. Consult your family physician for any required medications or extra precautions you may need.
-Lingering smoke and fire ash at your home and yard can temporarily worsen personal respiratory issues.
-Be careful near fire retardants and fire residues. Fire retardant contains ammonia which can sting eyes, cuts, scratches or sunburned skin, irritate intact skin, cause coughing/wheezing, and cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.
-Soot and ash can cause symptoms including eye and skin irritation.
-Ensure animals do not ingest water from puddles containing fire retardant.