Fire Response and Recovery

Butte County Fire 2008

CalEPA and its departments assist local, state and federal agencies during and after major wildfires. The services provided include emergency air monitoring by the California Air Resources Board, identification and removal of hazardous materials by the Department of Toxic Substances Control, and debris and ash removal by CalRecycle. The State Water Resources Control Board monitors water quality and ensures debris removal activities include measures to contain debris on site and prevent ash and other materials from entering rivers, creeks and streams.

For more on roles of CalEPA and its departments, see Reference Materials below.

Latest Wildfire Updates
Statewide Wildfire Recovery Resources

Air Quality

Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of chemicals, gases, and fine particles. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from breathing fine particles. Listen to city and county officials and heed their warnings and instructions. If you see or smell smoke, protect yourself and your family by staying indoors and avoiding outdoor activities. Seek medical assistance if you have difficulty breathing or experience chest discomfort, wheezing, or shortness of breath. Even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms in smoky conditions.

Fire Cleanup: Ash and Debris

Photo: A strip of red caution tape that reads "Danger" warns against entering the area of burned debris seen in the background.Debris from burned buildings can contain toxic substances. Homeowners may have gasoline, cleaning products, pesticides, and other chemicals stored in garages and sheds that may have burned in the fire. It is important not to expose yourself or your family to any of these materials.






Photo: TC Clark, CalRecycle
Debris awaits cleanup after fire destroyed a Lake County apartment complex in 2015.

For Residents

Leave Ash and Debris Alone

Cleaning debris and ash from a structure fire is dangerous. Burned buildings may still have walls that could collapse, batteries that could explode, and chemicals that are hazardous to your health. The state, local and federal officials initiate assessment and cleanup operations when it is safe to do so, under the coordination of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. If you are a resident of a burned area, we strongly encourage you to look to your city/county government for guidance, instruction and updates. Information is also available at

  • Fact Sheet: Protecting Public Health from Home and Building Fire Ash (Safe Cleanup of Fire Ash) (English, PDF) | (Español, PDF)

Photo: TC Clark, CalRecycle
Contract crews clean debris following a fire in 2014.



For Agencies

Asbestos Removal

It is important to help minimize the release of asbestos into the environment following a fire. A number of local, state, and federal regulations, including National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), provide safe handling and proper disposal instructions for fire ash and debris containing asbestos. For specific NESHAPs requirements or other local air quality regulations, please contact your air district or the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Water Protection

Local officials may issue a Boil Water Order when drinking water is contaminated or if a fire has damaged waste water and sewage treatment systems. If such an order is issued, residents should not use their tap water for drinking, washing dishes, washing hands or bathing, for cooking, or brushing teeth without first boiling the water.  More information is available at the State Water Resources Control Board’s Drinking Water Programs webpage.

Removal of Dead Animals

Government Assistance

  • Public Assistance – For recovery assistance following a disaster that impacts individuals and households, businesses, and/or the agricultural community in the State of California.
  • California Volunteers – Opportunities to assist in the relief efforts.
  • California Department of Insurance – Insurance issues and claims, call toll-free 1-800-927-HELP (4357).
  • California Contractor’s State License Board – Verifies contractor licenses, investigates complaints, and provides information about hiring a licensed contractor. Contact CSLB Disaster Hotline M-F from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1-800-962-1125, or 24-hour Automated Phone Response System 1-800-321 CSLB (2752). Licenses can also be checked online at
  • Franchise Tax Board – Guidance in obtaining tax relief for disaster casualty losses. Contact the Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-852-5711, (TTY/TDD) for hearing or speech impaired: 1-800-822-6268.

Reference Materials

Archived Material

 2007-2010 Wildfires

 Other Publications