Safe Cleanup after a Fire
The information below is for residents whose homes were not damaged or destroyed by the Marshall fire but may have smoke impacts or ash in their homes or on their properties.
Tips for Safe Cleanup
Residents and visitors to the area should assume that the burn debris and ash contains hazardous materials and should take the following precautions:
- Stay indoors or leave the burn area on windy days.
- Keep doors and windows closed.
- For homes with central air, check air filters regularly and replace when visibly soiled.
- Use rugs inside and outside entrances to catch any possible debris on shoes.
- Avoid tracking debris into the house; remove shoes.
- Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning ash – N95 or equivalent mask, latex or nitrile gloves, and eye protection.
- Use a damp mop or cloth to clean away visible dust in the house.
- Do not use harsh chemical cleaners or vinegar as they can react with chemicals in the ash. Soap and water are adequate to clean ash from hard surfaces.
- Soft surfaces and fabrics should be laundered or discarded.
- Use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter system.
- For exterior cleaning, spray with water – do not sweep ash and consider wearing an N95 or equivalent mask or respirator.
Those with underlying health conditions may want to take extra precautions such as wearing respiratory protection when outside, minimizing time in the burn area, and/or seeking a physician’s recommendation.
Post-Fire Smoke Impacts
In the recovery phase of a wildfire, children may be exposed to additional environmental hazards from their homes, nearby structures, land, and recovery activities. Common hazards include broken glass, exposed electrical wires, contaminated soils, and hot spots.
Children and pregnant women should only return to the impacted area when drinking water and sewage removal are restored, road conditions are safe, ash and debris have been removed, and homes are structurally sound. Schools and outdoor play areas should be cleaned and cleared of hazards. Any remaining hazards should be made inaccessible to children. Children and pregnant women should be the last group to return to the recovery area.
If you have a propane tank system, contact your propane supplier to ensure that your system is properly turned back on. Tanks, brass and copper fittings, and lines may have been damaged from the heat and can be unsafe. If fire burned the tank, the pressure relief valve likely opened and released the contents.
Heating Oil Tanks
If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before using it. The tank may have shifted or fallen from the stand, and the fuel lines may have kinked or weakened. Heat from the fire may have caused the tank to warp or bulge. Non-vented tanks are more likely to bulge or show signs of stress. The fire may have loosened or damaged fittings and filters.
Disposal of Household Chemicals
Everyday items, such as household cleaners, fertilizers, and pesticides, contain dangerous chemicals that may have spilled in or near your home during the fire response. Be alert for leaking or compromised containers and reactive household chemicals, such as caustic drain cleaners and chlorine bleach.
Take these steps to prevent injury or damage:
- Keep children and pets away from leaking or spilled chemicals.
- Do not combine chemicals from leaking or damaged containers; doing so might produce dangerous reactions.
- Do not pour chemicals down drains, storm sewers, or toilets.
- Do not try to burn household chemicals.
- Clearly mark and set aside unbroken containers until they can be properly disposed.
- Leave damaged or unlabeled chemical containers undisturbed whenever possible.
- Do not put household chemicals in the trash.
The Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management Facility (HMMF) facility at 1901 63rd Street, Boulder will take unwanted materials that are in original containers and have not been affected by fire.