Cleaning up the ash from our homes, yards, businesses and streets will eventually help clean our air and our community, but it must be done safely. Smoke and ash can be harmful to your health and the health of those around you. The greatest risk is from fine particles that are not visible. The information below is for residents and businesses who are cleaning up ash, not those cleaning up burned structures; that kind of clean-up requires additional precautions.
When you determine it is safe to clean up, remember the four Cs:
CAUTION — CONTROL — CONTAIN — CAPTURE
Avoid cleaning up ash until conditions improve and it’s safe to be outdoors. Decisions about when to clean should be based on the level of fine particles and the air. Check your local air quality information here.
No one with heart or lung conditions should handle ash clean-up.
If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke or soot, stop cleaning and consult your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, headaches and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.
Use a NIOSH N-95 or P-100 particulate respirator mask.
Inhaled ash may be irritating to the nose, throat and lungs. Choose a mask with two straps and make sure it can fits snugly around your nose and chin. Surgical masks, bandanas and other paper masks do not protect your lungs from the fine particles that are of greatest concern.
Avoid skin contact with ash.
Wear long sleeves, long pants, closed shoes and gloves. Although ash from organic materials like trees and brush is not harmful to the skin, this precautionary measure will protect you from irritation and harm from other types of ash.
Wash ash off toys before children play with them and do not allow children to be in areas where ash-covered materials are being disturbed.
Thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables from your garden before eating.
Do not consume any food, beverages or medications that have been exposed to significant smoke, ash, heat, pressure, or chemicals.
Try to control the amount of ash particles that get re-suspended into the air.
DO NOT USE LEAF BLOWERS to clean up ash. Use only household vacuums or shop vacuums with HEPA filters.
Leaf blowers and standard household and shop vacuums without HEPA filters re-suspend harmful fine particles into the air and create more health concerns.
Protect yourself when others are cleaning around you.
Landscaping companies and residents alike are advised to avoid stirring up ash into the air with mowers or blowers. While there is no restriction in place in Albany, we are asking companies and residents to use common sense and help keep air quality issues and health risks for workers and neighbors at a minimum.
Leave the area or go inside if the cleaning efforts of your neighbors are impacting you.
Sweep gently with a push broom, then mop with a damp cloth or hose lightly with water.
Take care to conserve water. You may allow water to drain into landscaping as ash will not hurt plants or grass.
Scrape ash and debris into plastic bags and dispose in the regular trash.
Closed bags or containers will keep the ash from being released during collection.
Protect storm drains from ash and cleaning chemicals.
Divert water away from storm drains or try to filter the wash water with gravel bags, filter fabric, fiber rolls, etc., in front of storm drains. Scoop up captured ash and debris and dispose of appropriately.
If washing roof areas, redirect downspouts to landscaped areas. Ash will not hurt plants or grass.
- What should I do about the wildfire ash covering my yard and garden? (OSU Extension Service)
- Take precautions when wildfire ash falls on fruits and vegetables (OSU Extension Service)