High pH levels, residual ash and ammonia from fire retardant are abundant in post-wildfire areas. They can cause major skin, eye and respiratory irritation as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. Healthy adults can consider returning when the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is 6 or less, while at-risk individuals, including pregnant women, children, individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions and seniors over 65, will want to delay return until the AQHI is 3 or less. Consider the following Do’s and Don’ts when re-entering after wildfires:
2. Do use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for breathing and to protect your head and body when re-entering a damaged home or facility. These include N95 protective mask, safety glasses or goggles with wrap-around protection, long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves and boots, and protective helmets if there's a risk of falling debris.
5. Don’t return unprepared. Bring a Flashlight, gloves, and garbage bags when you return. Walk around the exterior of your home or facility first, noting electrical wiring, sewage, water damage, the smell of gas or fallen debris. Enter with caution and find out if utilities have been reinstated before turning on your gas, water, or electricity. Know that smoke and other odors can remain a long time and areas may need to be cleaned multiple times.
6. Do document it all. Take pictures, maintain a running inventory of lost or damaged items, both inside and outside the home or facility and keep track of your expenses and receipts. Your insurance may cover a fire restoration specialist.