Asbestos may be present in homes affected by wildfire. Use caution when cleaning debris from burned structures that could contain asbestos. Asbestos is a toxic air contaminant known to cause lung cancer and other lung diseases. When disturbed by fire, demolition, or remodeling, it can become airborne. In addition to asbestos, dust from fire debris can be hazardous when it becomes airborne.
Homes built before 1990 are more likely to contain asbestos materials because asbestos was used in some building materials, including drywall texturing, roofs, floor tiles, acoustic ceilings, insulation, sound-proofing, cement pipes, heating duct insulation, pipe coverings, and other materials. Unfortunately, asbestos has NOT been banned inform all home building products.
If asbestos was present in the building materials prior to the fire it will be present in the ash and debris of structures burned by the fire, along with other hazardous materials like lead.
Asbestos Testing & Abatement
If you decide to remove the debris from your property, follow the instructions below. If you choose to not remove the burnt debris from your property you can hire an asbestos inspector and a general asbestos abatement contractor to remove the debris.
Completely Burnt or Structures Unsafe to Enter
To minimize potential exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials in fire debris, follow these requirements for proper and safe handling and disposal of materials:
- Use a P100 respirator to clean up ash and debris.
- Wet home building materials that now look like ash to minimize dust while handling.
- Packaged debris inside an end-dump roll-off lined with double 6-mil plastic sheeting with the sheeting completely closed over the material once the roll-off is loaded. (This is commonly referred to as a “burrito”.)
- Ensure the ash is brought to an approved landfill. See list of approve landfills below.
- Scrape soil under/surrounding the building to ensure that all ash and building debris has been removed from the site. Ash-containing material should also be wetted.
- Contact the landfill before loads are taken to confirm acceptance, to alert them that the material is coming, and to initiate a waste profile.
- Complete the Asbestos Demolition Permit.
Partially Burnt Buildings
For buildings partially damaged by the fire and where sampling building materials for the presence of asbestos can be done safely, a standard building demolition protocol must be followed:
- The building must be inspected by a Colorado certified asbestos building inspector prior to renovation or demolition activities impacting the building materials.
- If asbestos-containing material is present in amounts greater than the trigger levels, they must be removed in accordance with Colorado Regulation No. 8, Part B, (Asbestos).
- Trigger levels for single family residential dwellings are 50 linear feet on pipes, 32 square feet on other surfaces, or the volume equivalent of a 55-gallon drum.
- Trigger levels for public and commercial buildings are 260 linear feet on pipes, 160 square feet on other surfaces, or the volume equivalent of a 55-gallon drum.
- Follow the Asbestos Demolition Permitting process.
In order to get approval to accept these materials, landfills must request and receive permission from the Solid Waste Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which will include agreement to implement certain best management practices designed to protect landfill workers and nearby public from potential asbestos hazards. The CDPHE Solid Waste Program can be reached at 303-692-3300.
Follow these guidelines for any materials that will be recycled:
- Wash metal debris clean of ash/debris prior to recycling.
- Ensure concrete (foundations) are first inspected by a Colorado certified asbestos building inspector to determine that it is free of asbestos-containing materials prior to recycling. If you choose to dispose of concrete instead it must an approved landfill.