After the Fire, Take Care When Returning Home

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Release date: 
July 2, 2002
Release Number: 

Mesa, AZ -- The State of Arizona and the Federal Emergency Management Agency want you to take precautions when returning to your home after a wildfire. Most people have little experience dealing with the aftermath of a serious fire. The following tips may be very helpful if your home has been damaged by fire:

  • Food and water- If your home lost power during the evacuation, you likely will need to clean out your refrigerator. Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees F. for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, texture, or feels warm to the touch. Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees F. or below. You will have to evaluate each item separately. Be sure to discard any fully cooked items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. And remember, you can't rely on appearance or odor alone. Never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria that cause food-borne illness can begin to grow very rapidly. If you're in doubt about a food's safety, throw it out! It's not worth the risk.

    The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers charts for more specific tips on frozen and refrigerated foods on its Web site at can also call the Arizona Department of Health Services Office of Environmental Health at 1-800-367-6412.

    Unless your water company tells you the water is okay to drink, boil your water.

  • Propane-When you return home, check to see that your propane tanks are secure and not leaking. Also, check the lines to make sure they were not damaged by the fire. If there is any evidence that fire may have damaged the tank or lines, do not use propane in your home. If there is any evidence the propane vessel has been in close proximity to the fire, call your propane service provider to inspect the system.

  • Ash-Wood ash is a combination of nutrients and minerals left behind by the wood that has burned. The ash from vegetation can be messy, but it is not harmful. However, ash from a home or garage that has burned may not be as harmless as the wood ash. Chemicals and consumer products in your home or stored in the garage may be harmful and should be removed.

    It is advisable to wet the ash before you attempt to remove it to avoid creating a potentially harmful dust.
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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