For Immediate Release

Caution Urged During Wildfire Cleanup

Santa Rosa, CA  –  September 19, 2015  –  Residents of recently burned areas are advised to use caution in cleaning up ash from recent wildfires. The ash from trees burned in forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace. However, ash from burned homes and other items will likely contain metals, chemicals, and potentially asbestos, items that can be considered toxic if breathed in or touched with wet skin.

If the ash is inhaled, it can be irritating to the nose, throat and lungs and may cause coughing. Exposure to airborne ash may trigger asthmatic attacks in people who already have asthma. In order to avoid possible health problems, the following steps are recommended:

  • Do not allow children to play in the ash. Wash ash off toys before children play with them. Clean ash off pets.
  • Wear a mask, gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants and avoid skin contact. Ash may be irritating to the skin, especially to those with sensitive skin.
  • If you do get ash on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible. Some wet ash can cause chemical burns.
  • If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, wash the fruits or vegetables before eating them.
  • Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Do not use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash into the air
  • Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter out small particles. They blow such particles out the exhaust into the air where they can be inhaled

The use of shop vacuums and other non-HEPA filter vacuums is not recommended. HEPA filter vacuums could be used, if available.

More information can be found on CDPH’s Be Prepared California website, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control’s website and the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Fire Response and Recovery website. For the latest information on the fires, visit California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s website.

For donations, volunteering, public health advisory, updates, and general information, please visit Sonoma County’s website: Additional information can also be found on Facebook (County of Sonoma, California) and Twitter (@CountyofSonoma). For Nixle updates, text your zip code to 888777.