Firewatch

Health Concerns and Resources

Safely Re-Entering Your Property

The City of Santa Rosa and the County of Sonoma are providing information to help you safely return to your property. We understand that this will be an emotional experience and want you to know that you are not alone. There are many people and agencies here to help you navigate the challenges of entering an area that has been damaged by fire. Please familiarize yourself with this information.

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Health Concerns

Air Quality

  • Air quality will be variable while there are active fires in the region and shifting winds. Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease are most impacted.
  • To decrease your exposure to wildfire smoke and to limit harmful effects from smoke follow these healthy habits:
    • Limit your time outside and stay indoors as much as possible.
    • If possible, seek shelter in buildings with filtered air OR move to areas outside the region less impacted by wildfire smoke until smoke levels subside.
    • Keep your windows and doors closed unless it’s extremely hot outside. If you don’t have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.
    • Run your home or car air conditioner on recycle or recirculate. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.

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Water Supply

With the exception of the specific notices below, it is safe to drink and use tap water.

  • Boil Water notices were issued:
    • Lawndale Mutual Water Company, Kenwood
    • Sobre Vista Water Company, Sonoma
    • End-O-Valley Mutual Water Company, Santa Rosa
    • Riebli Mutual Water Company, Santa Rosa
    • Rolling Oaks Road Association, Santa Rosa
    • Sobre Vista Water Company, Sonoma
    • Brand Water Company, Santa Rosa
  • Do Not Drink Water notices were issued:
    • California American Water, Larkfield

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Food Safety after a Fire

Eating food that has been involved in a fire can be dangerous and may cause illness to you and your family. Use extreme caution when trying to save food after a fire.

Food exposed to fire can be compromised by three factors:

  1. Heat from the Fire:
    Food in cans or jars may appear to be okay, but if they've been exposed to the heat of a fire, they may no longer be safe. Heat from a fire can activate food spoilage bacteria. If the heat is extreme, the cans or jars themselves can split or rupture, rendering the food unsafe.
  2. Fumes from a Fire:
    One of the most dangerous elements of a fire is sometimes not the fire itself, but toxic fumes released from burning materials.

    These fumes can kill and can also contaminate food. Any unpackaged food or food stored in permeable packaging (cardboard, plastic wrap, etc.) should be thrown away. Toxic fumes can permeate the packaging and contaminate the food.

    Discard any raw foods, stored outside the refrigerator (such as potatoes or fruit) that could be contaminated by fumes.

    Food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes. The refrigerator seal is not airtight and fumes can get inside.
  3. Chemicals in Fires:
    Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware. The chemicals cannot be washed off the food.

    Foods that are exposed to chemicals should be thrown away. This includes food stored at room temperature, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as foods stored in permeable containers like those with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops, and snap-open, and home-canned foods because they cannot be disinfected. Throw away food in cardboard containers, including juice/milk/baby formula boxes.

    Canned goods and cookware exposed to chemicals can be decontaminated: Wash in a strong detergent solution. Then dip in a bleach solution (1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water) for 15 minutes.

Power Outage:

Even if your home was not directly damaged by fire, power outages may have occurred. Special
considerations are necessary to ensure the safety of food in refrigerators or freezers.

  • When the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • Check for signs of power outage such as liquid or refrozen meat juices, soft or melted ice
    cream.
  • If you have returned after being evacuated and are not sure if the power was shut off and then
    turned back on, check with your utility company.
  • Discard any food that has an unusual color, odor, or texture.
  • Discard perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) in your refrigerator
    when the power has been off for 4 hours or more.
  • Thawed food that contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked. Freezers, if left unopened
    and full during a power outage, will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half full).

Reheating food that has become contaminated will not make it safe!
When in doubt, throw it out!

Additional Information is available at:

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Debris Removal

We understand the desire for people to start rebuilding and to “clean up” the burn site. However, improper handling and disposal of hazardous ash and materials may impact you, your children and the general public, for the following reasons:

  • Ash and debris contain hazardous materials, which may include asbestos, heavy metals, by-products of plastic combustion and various other chemicals;
  • Ash that isn’t handled properly can impact people who are handling and transporting it. Ash that is transported can become airborne, which could impact the general public, including schools and other public areas;
  • Because of its hazardous nature, ash and debris cannot be taken to the landfill, and it is ILLEGAL to dispose of ash and debris along road sides or on public or private lands.

See Debris and Ash Removal Process for more information

We will post additional information as soon becomes available.

Debris Removal Right of Entry Permit(PDF: 152 kB)

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Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning and sanitizing your household after an emergency is important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Clean and sanitize surfaces in a four-step process:

  1. Wash with soap and hot, clean water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/240 ml) unscented household chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water.
  4. Allow to air dry.

Please remember these safety tips when cleaning:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner.
  • Wear rubber or other non-porous boots, gloves, and eye protection.
  • Avoid breathing fumes: If using products indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter.
  • Cleaning & sanitizing with bleach: Use regular unscented 5%-6% household bleach and follow the instructions in the chart below.

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Fire Fighting Chemicals - Safety Information

Residents returning home may have concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the red chemical dropped by planes on the fire, known as “fire retardant.” The fire retardant powder that may be found covering structures and property is 85 percent water, 10 percent fertilizer, and 5 percent other ingredients such as color, thickener, corrosion inhibitors, etc.

All wildland fire chemicals have been tested and meet specific safety requirements for humans and other mammals. Health risks to adults and children from fire retardant cleanup are minimal. As with any chemical substance, a small percentage of people may have an allergy or sensitivity to specific chemicals.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has created an information sheet detailing product information.

USFS recommendations for cleanup of structures and property:

  • Washing retardants off as soon as possible as retardants may discolor metal.
  • Avoiding power washers, which may drive red colorant into porous surfaces such as wood.
  • Restricting water use to prevent puddles, which may be attractive to pets.
  • Washing pets thoroughly with shampoo as fire retardant is very drying to the skin.

Health Safety

  • If fire retardant comes in contact with eyes or skin, wash off with water. No first aid is required.
  • Wash exposed clothing before reusing.
  • Avoid inhaling but if inhaled accidentally, no first aid is required.
  • Avoid ingesting but if ingested, contact physician or poison control center for advice.
  • Do not eat vegetables from home gardens or from wild lands exposed to fire retardant.

Environmental Impacts

  • Excessive fire retardant may cause a temporary “burn” on exposed vegetation and in some cases even kill plants.
  • Food and crops exposed to fire retardant and smoke from wild fires should be discarded.
  • Short-term exposure to fire retardant is nontoxic to animals and fish. Longer term exposure and/or ingestion of contaminated vegetation may cause nitrate poisoning.

For more information about public health and safety concerns associated with fire retardant, as well as impact to waterways and agricultural areas, visit: https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/fire/wfcs/envbrief.htm

For information on USFS Wildland Fire Chemical Products Toxicity and Environmental Concerns General Information https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/fire/wfcs/documents/envinfo.pdf

For additional details on Class A Foam Environmental, Safety & Health https://385xpfxe1e13almu7u8sj31b-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Tech-Tip-Class_A__Foam_Enviro_Q_A.pdf

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Clinic and Urgent Care Locations

Cloverdale

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Forestville

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Guerneville

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Healdsburg

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Occidental

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Petaluma

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Rohnert Park

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Santa Rosa

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Sebastopol

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Windsor

Pharmacy Locations

During this emergency, pharmacies are authorized to refill prescriptions without renewed contact with your physician. In addition, for new health needs, we encourage people to contact their primary care provider.

Cloverdale

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Healdsburg

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Petaluma

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Rohnert Park

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Sebastopol

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Santa Rosa

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Sonoma

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Windsor

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Fire Information

Community Information and Recovery Resources

News and maps, evacuation and shelter updates and information to help you recover from the fire disaster: applying for disaster aid, health concerns, returning to burn areas, housing and financial assistance and more.

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Local Assistance Center

One-stop shop with critical services for residents who have been impacted by the fires. Services include FEMA, Small Business Administration, Social Security, US Postal Service, Social Services, Veterans Affairs, DMV, etc.

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Fire Maps

 

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