Fire Response and Recovery
CalEPA and its departments are available to assist local, state and federal agencies during and after major disasters and emergencies. 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
For the latest information on the October 2017 wildfires please visit:
– Governor’s Office of Emergency Services October Wildfires Resources & Information.
– County fire recovery websites.
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 c ounty 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.
For Health Professionals
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials (PDF) is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.
- Wildfires: Guidance for Health Professionals on the Health Risks for Children (Acute Phase) (PDF)
- Wildfires: Guidance for Health Professionals on the Health Risks for Children (Aftermath) (PDF)
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.
Leave Ash and Debris Alone
Cleaning fire 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 wildfirerecovery.org.
- Fact Sheet: Protecting Public Health from Home and Building Fire Ash (Safe Cleanup of Fire Ash) (PDF)
……………………………………………………………Photo: TC Clark, CalRecycle
Contract crews clean debris following a fire in 2014.
- Removal of Hazardous Materials : Contact DTSC Emergency Response Duty Officer (916) 255-6504
- Removal of Other Debris and Ash: CalRecycle Debris Removal Resources
- Cal OES Debris Removal Resources
- Guidance for Conducting Emergency Debris, Waste and Hazardous Material Removal Actions (PDF)
- Handling ash, debris, and other hazardous materials from burned structures (English, PDF) | (Spanish, PDF)
- Management options for expedited collection of hazardous wastes from burned areas (English, PDF) | (Spanish, PDF)
- Cal OES Disaster Debris Management Manual (PDF)
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).
- Guidance for asbestos in debris from burned homes and business from the South Coast AQMD
- Guidelines for wildfire-damaged structure demolition/renovation activities from the San Diego County APCD (PDF)
- Asbestos removal and demolition after State-declared emergencies (for Non-Delegated Air Districts) (PDF)
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 a “boil water” 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.
- Fire assistance and cleanup information from the State Water Resources Control Board and the Regional Boards.
- Rebuild Your Life – For consumers seeking information about what they need to do to recover from a disaster.
- 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 www.cslb.ca.gov.
- 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.
Removal of Deceased Animals
- Guidance for disposal of animal carcasses associated with fires (PDF)
- UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team information on care and management of fire-affected livestock and carcasses
- California Emergency Plan and Emergency Support Functions (October 2017) (CalEPA pp. 108-112)
- Emergency Function 10 Hazardous Materials Annex to California Emergency Plan (PDF)
- CalEPA’s Emergency Response and Disaster Preparedness webpage
- CalEPA’s California Hazmat & Oil Emergency webpage
- Selected Fire Response and Recovery Summary 2007-2010 (PDF)
- Assessment of Burn Debris: 2007 Wildfires San Bernardino and San Diego Counties, California (PDF, 20 MB)