What to do After a Fire
The days, weeks, and months following a wildfire may be very difficult, depending upon your loss. The emotional trauma of a wildfire may be something you never forget. The tips, information and resources presented below will help you through the process.
Information and Resources
The following links to additional information and resources may help you after a fire has affected your home or community.
Caldor Fire Repopulation and Utility Resources:
- Douglas County- Returning Home After Caldor Fire Evacuation
- City Of South Lake Tahoe – Repopulation
- South Tahoe Public Utility District Info
- FEMA- After the Fire
- After The Burn – Assessing and Managing Your Forestland After A Wildfire
- How to Clean up Wildfire Ash
- What Grows Back After the Fire
- Recovering from Wildfire: A Guide for California’s Forest Landowners
- Taking Care of Residential Trees After Wildfire
- What to Plant After Tree Loss
Additional Website Resources:
Tips Before You Enter the House:
If you were evacuated, contact your insurance agent or company to let them know how you can be reached. Keep receipts for temporary living expenses, like motel room and meals. Do not return to your home until re-entry is permitted by law enforcement officials. Do not cross a barricade or hazard tape without permission. Things to do before entering the house:
- Be careful when going back into your neighborhood, as charred trees and power poles may be unstable, fires may flare up without warning, and live power lines may be on the ground.
- Watch out for ash pits — holes created by burned trees filled with hot ash.
- Check to see if your gas and electric utilities are working properly. If you smell gas, shut off the gas supply at the main valve, leave immediately, and call the gas company. If the electricity is not working, check to see if the main breaker is “on”. If it is and there is no power, call your power company.
- Your house and yard may be covered in ash and may still have live embers present. Wear protective clothing and a dust mask.
- Check for and extinguish any burning embers on the roof, in rain gutters, on the porch or elsewhere on your property.
Tips Before You Enter Inside the House:
- Check for embers and smoke in the attic and in the crawl space. Check every day for several days.
- Start a list of things that have been damaged. Damage can occur from fire, smoke, water and chemicals. Take photographs. Don’t throw away damaged belongings or make repairs until you’ve talked to your insurance company.
- Do not eat food, drink beverages, or take medicine exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Smoke can infiltrate cloth and other materials. Use one to two cups of white vinegar with each load of wash to help rid clothing of the “smoke smell.” Commercial cleaning may be necessary for your drapes, upholstery and carpet.
- Check your carbon monoxide detectors when you arrive making sure they are still working as we are still experiencing poor air quality.
Tips For Landscape Care:
- Fire damaged trees may survive, depending on their species, condition before the fire, and how badly they were scorched. Good indicators that a tree will survive are a green or white, moist cambium layer beneath the bark, or if most of the buds are still green, moist and flexible. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a tree will survive. In those cases, it may be worthwhile to wait until next spring.
- Sometimes the soil itself can begin to repel water to become “hydrophobic.” If water won’t soak into the ground, try loosening the soil with a rake. A thin layer of straw on top of the soil can help it absorb moisture.
- Irrigate stressed plants as soon as you can. Water the ground under trees for the full width of their drip line — the circumference of their canopy of branches — and a few feet farther. Keep watering until the soil is moist to a depth of 12-15 inches.
- Fire stressed trees are vulnerable to beetle attack. Look for pink to red colored pitch on the branches. Beetle infested trees should be cut down and removed.
- Soil erosion becomes a major concern after wildfire. Several techniques are available for controlling erosion, including reseeding, the use of a straw mulch, and felling damaged trees across a slope. Planting of conservation grasses like crested wheatgrass can also help control erosion.