9/29: Fire Ash and Debris

9/29: Fire Ash and Debris

The local fires have resulted in large volumes of fire ash and debris throughout Sonoma County. Please use caution when you come in contact and clean-up these materials.

The City of Sebastopol has scheduled additional street sweeping for the downtown and commercial areas this week with our street sweeping provider Recology to mitigate the ash and debris.
 
According to the California Department of Health and Human Services, ash deposited by forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash found in fireplaces, however, any ash particularly from ash and debris found inside burned structures will contain small amounts of cancer-causing chemicals or carcinogens. It's important to note that ash may be irritating to the skin (especially to those with sensitive skin) and if breathed could irritate the nose and throat causing coughing and even trigger asthmatic attacks in people who have asthma.

In an effort to avoid possible health problems the California Environmental Protection Agency has developed a list of recommended
steps to follow when cleaning up after a fire:
• Do not allow children to play in ash.
• Wash ash off children's toys before children play with them.
• Clean ash off house pets.
• Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants and avoid skin contact.
• If you do get ash on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.
• If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, wash the fruit or vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
• Avoid getting ash in the air as much as possible. Do not use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash in the air.
• Gentle sweeping of indoor and outdoor hard surfaces followed by wet mopping is the best procedure in most cases. A damp cloth or wet mop may be all that is needed on lightly dusted areas.
• Use a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner. Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter out small particles, but rather blow such particles at the exhaust into the air where they can be breathed.
• Wear a well-fitted dust mask for protection during cleanup. A mask rated N-95 or P-100 will be more effective than simpler dust or surgical masks in blocking particles from ash. In general, many ash particles are larger than those found in smoke; thus, wearing a dust mask can significantly reduce (but not completely eliminate) the amount of particles inhaled.
• Persons with heart or lung disease should consult their physician before using a mask during post-fire cleanup.
• Avoid washing ash into storm drains whenever possible.
• Collected ash may be disposed of in the regular trash. Ash may be stored in plastic bags or other containers that will prevent it from being disturbed.
· If ash is wet down, use as little water as possible

Protecting Yourself from Ash (.pdf)