Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notifies of potential health risks associated with home fire debris

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Remote, Jan 3: After the devastating fires this past week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recognizes that people are eager to return to their homes to see what can be recovered. Remember to stay out of the area until Boulder officials allow re-entry for your neighborhood. Please wait to be notified by your local city or county for guidance about entering your property. When you are permitted to re-enter, you should be aware of the immediate and long-term health risks associated with exposure to home fire ash and debris. 

Whenever possible, people  should avoid or minimize contact with home fire debris. The resulting ash and debris can contain some or all of the following:

  • Tiny particles of dust, dirt, and soot that can easily become airborne and inhaled.

  • Toxic amounts of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and mercury.

  • Asbestos.

  • Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, cleaning products, pesticides, and herbicides

In addition to irritating your skin, nose, and throat, substances like asbestos and cadmium have been known to cause cancer. People who want to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution and with proper protective gear.

  • Avoid disturbing debris or kicking up ash.

  • NIOSH-certified air-purifying respirator masks are highly recommended. A mask rated N-95 is more effective at blocking particles from ash.

  • Wear gloves, long shirts and pants, safety eyewear, and other clothing.

  • It’s best to change shoes and clothing as soon as you are off-site to avoid contaminating your vehicle, your home, or other non-contaminated areas.

  • Even with protective clothing and respirators, children should not be exposed to fire ash or debris.

Individuals are encouraged to apply for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. 

For additional information on fire safety, and applying for FEMA assistance, please visit the website: