SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Check with your local emergency services that it is safe to return to your property after a bushfire.
- Wear protective clothing before entering your property after a bushfire.
- Where possible, try to avoid taking children onto fire-damaged properties. If you do, make sure they remain protected at all times.
- Hazardous wastes, such as asbestos materials and burnt CCA-treated timber, need special care during handling and disposal.
Protect your health and safety after a bushfire
Houses, sheds and other buildings or structures burnt in a bushfire can leave potential health hazards. These may include fallen or sharp objects, smouldering coals, damaged electrical wires, leaking gas and weakened walls.
When returning to your property, make sure you are aware of the dangers and take steps to protect your health and safety.
Hazardous materials after a bushfire
Hazardous materials that may be present after a bushfire include:
- ashes, especially from burnt treated timbers (such as )
- LPG gas cylinders
- farm chemicals
- other general chemicals (for example, cleaning products)
- metal and other residues from burnt household appliances
If you have a septic tank, remember it may have been weakened in the fire so do not drive or walk over it.
It is unsafe to spread ash around your property, particularly if asbestos materials were used in your home or other structures, or if CCA-treated timber was burnt. It is also unsafe to disturb the dust when walking around your property.
Use protective clothing to check your property after a bushfire
Make sure you wear protective clothing before entering your property:
- Wear sturdy footwear and heavy-duty work gloves.
- Wear disposable overalls, with long sleeves and trousers.
- Wear a P2 face mask (or N95/KN95).
- When leaving the property, dispose of gloves, coveralls and face masks into a garbage bag. Wash your hands after removing contaminated clothing and articles. Shoes should be cleaned before being worn again.
Heat-affected food after a bushfire
Debris in water tanks after a bushfire
If you have an evaporative air conditioner which is supplied by tank water, do not use it if this water has been contaminated.
If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not drink it or give it to animals.
Taking care of yourself after a bushfire
For safety reasons, try to limit the time spent at your property immediately after a bushfire. However, if you will be there for an extended period, remember to bring:
- bottled drinking water
- food – perishable food should be kept cool in an esky or cooler bag
- a hat.
Injured wildlife after a bushfire
It is not recommended that you attempt to catch injured wildlife due to the risk of further injury to wildlife or to you.
Cleaning up your home after a bushfire
If your home has been damaged by fire or smells of smoke from bushfires, you should ventilate it by opening the house up to sunlight and fresh air to help remove the odour.
Wash indoor surfaces with mild soap or detergent and water. For persistent smoke and soot, wear rubber gloves and wash with 4 to 6 teaspoons of washing powder and one cup of household chlorine bleach added to 4 litres of water. Remember to always follow the safety directions on the bleach container.
Cooking utensils can be washed with detergent and hot water and polished with a suitable polishing agent to remove discolouration.
You will want to inspect your makeup and your medicine cabinet after a fire. Throw out anything that has signs of soot, smoke discolouration or fire extinguisher dust. Dangerous chemicals can be ingested or be absorbed through your skin if you keep contaminated items.
Air soft furnishings (upholstered furniture and bedding) outside in the sunshine and wind. Mattresses may be able to be cleaned by a specialist mattress repairer. It is almost impossible to get the smell of smoke out of feather pillows or foam.
Wash affected clothing after a bushfire
Wash affected clothing normally and air dry outside in the sunshine and wind. Persistent stains and smoke odour can sometimes be washed from clothing using 4 to 6 teaspoons of washing powder and one cup of household chlorine bleach added to 4 litres of water. After washing, rinse clothes with clean water and dry well.
Remember to wear gloves and follow the safety directions on the bleach container. Care should be taken as this mix will bleach clothes.
Clothes left on the clothes line should be rewashed. while wind may have removed some smoke odour, soot, particles and ash may have been deposited on them. Rewashing protects sensitive skin (for example, babies) from possible irritants.