Return Safely after 2019 Kincade Fire

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Health Officer Emergency Order

Returning to your Property 

Fire ash may be irritating to the skin, nose, and throat may cause coughing and/or nose bleeds.  Fine particles can be inhaled deeply into lungs and may aggravate asthma and may make it difficult to breathe.

  • Refrain from cleaning ash and fire debris until professional hazardous material cleanup services are secured. Seek professional damage and debris removal/restoration services.
  • When exposure to dust or ash cannot be avoided, use a well-fitted NIOSH-certified air-purifying respirator N-95 mask.
  • Children should not be in the vicinity while cleanup is in progress. Even if care is exercised, it is easy to stir up ash that may contain hazardous substances.
  • Clean ash off house pets and other domesticated animals if they have been in contaminated areas.
  • It is best to not allow pets in these areas due to the potential risk to their health and their ability to spread outside of contaminated areas.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to avoid skin contact. Goggles are recommended. Contact with wet ash may cause chemical burns or irritation on skin. Change your shoes and clothing prior to leaving the decontamination site, to avoid tracking ash into your car, home, etc.


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Returning Home

This weather event and the power shutoff may bring up emotional distress.

The following organizations offer free bilingual mental health services:

To assess air quality during a wildfire, the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District recommends as the most accurate source for available fine particulate matter measurements.

Sonoma County has issued a smoke health advisory as of 8:45 AM on October 25, 2019.

See the Air Quality Health Advisory for more information.

If your home or business experienced a power outage, it is better to replace food than to make someone sick. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Food that has been out of temperature for more than 4 hours may cause illness.
  • Discard all spoiled food to avoid potential health risk.
  • Reheating food that has become contaminated will not make it safe.
  • Even packaged food will go bad if they’ve been stored in a hot place. Toss metal, glass or cardboard containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps or flip tops.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Find out what food you can safely keep and eat if your home loses power »

If you suspect a gas leak or smell gas, take these precautions immediately:

  • Alert everyone nearby and leave the area immediately to an upwind location.
  • Do not use anything that could be a source of ignition, including cell phones, flashlights, light switches, matches or vehicles, until you are a safe distance away.
  • Call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance and then call PG&E at 1 (800) 743-5000.

Do not use your water if you suspect or have been told it is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water.

If you have a drinking water well, listen to your local health authorities for advice on using your well water.


Electrical Equipment

  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances (like stoves), equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Leave one light turned on so you’ll know when the power comes back on.

Find more information from the American Red Cross here:

Information about generator safety can be found here:

Foods exposed to fire can be compromised. Reheating food that has become contaminated will not make it safe -When in doubt, throw it out!

  • Food in cans, jars, bottles, and other permeable containers may appear to be okay, but if they have been close 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.
  • Foods that are exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals should be thrown away. Toxic fumes can permeate the packaging and contaminate the food. Any type of food stored in permeable packaging (cardboard, plastic wrap, etc.) should be thrown away. 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. Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials and can contaminate food and cookware.

Food facilities need to seek Environmental Health Services prior to reopening your facility. Contact Environmental Health at 707-565-6565.


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:

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

Please remember the following safety tips when cleaning:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner.
  • Wear rubber or other non-porous boots, gloves, and eye protection.
  • Try not to breathe in product fumes. If using products indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter.


Keeping hands clean during an emergency helps prevent the spread of germs. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected or use a large water jug that contains clean water. To wash your hands properly:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together (20 seconds) to make a lather and scrub them well.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.


Wildfires can cause serious damage to your home. The building and many of the things in your home may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke and water. You may find things that the fire did not burn up but are now ruined by smoke and soggy with water used to put out the flames. Anything  you want to save or reuse will need to be carefully cleaned. The firefighters may have cut holes in the walls of the building to look for hidden flames. They may have cut holes in the roof to let out the heat and smoke. Cleanup will take time and patience.

If your  home was exposed to wildfire smoke and ash, you want to make sure it and its contents get properly inspected, tested, cleaned, treated and restored to pre-exposure condition. Damage to your home and possessions by smoke and ash may be covered in your insurance policy. Contact your insurance company before you begin cleanup to learn more about your coverage and how to file a claim.

The American Red Cross provides these tips for cleaning up and removing smoke odor here:

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