Safety and first aid

After a bushfire – hazards on your property

  • There will be hazards that you may come across in and around your property and the local community following a bushfire.
  • Before going back to your property to view damage, retrieve personal items, clean-up or to reoccupy it, be aware of the potential risks.
  • In many cases cleaning, e.g. asbestos contamination, will have to be done by professionals.

It is extremely important that you follow advice from emergency response and recovery agencies, including your local government, before returning to your property.

Immediate risks

  • Damaged downed power lines/electrical wires. If you see a downed powerline or damaged electrical assets stay at least 8 metres clear and call 13 13 51 to report the hazard to Western Power.
  • Damaged gas supplies and fuel leaks
  • Unstable structures.

Potential hazards when returning to your property

The demolition of buildings or structures may require a permit from your local government.

Before going back to your property
  • For safety reasons, only adults should help clean-up materials after a bushfire.
  • Do not enter your property until you have been told that it is safe by emergency services, Western Power or Horizon Power, or your local council.
  • Buildings and other structures may be unstable to enter or walk on. Get advice from your local council building section to make sure it is safe before you enter.
  • Be aware that hot, smouldering coals and other potentially hazardous materials may be hidden under the rubble.
  • If you think buildings on your property may contain asbestos cement sheeting, take extra care – see the section 'Asbestos – clean-up and disposal' on this page.

Looking after your health

If you are cleaning up during hot weather, be aware of the risks of heat stress and make sure you have:

  • bottled drinking water
  • food – perishable food should be kept cold in an esky or cooler bag
  • sunscreen
  • a hat.
Protective clothing
  • Wear strong enclosed shoes or boots and heavy-duty work gloves to protect you from broken glass, standing on sharp objects or getting burnt by smouldering coals.
  • Wear protective overalls (with long sleeves and trousers). If convenient, wear disposable coveralls and dispose of them with other waste after use.
  • Any non-disposable clothing (including shoes) should be washed or wet cleaned before reuse.
  • If the property or site contains asbestos, disposable overalls should be placed in a sealed bag after use and disposed of as asbestos waste.

Should I wear a face mask?

  • A face mask should be worn if you are near any hazardous material in a fine of dusty form that may be being disturbed.
  • Ordinary paper dust masks, handkerchiefs or bandannas do not filter out fine ash or dusts or any asbestos fibres that may remain. They are generally not very useful in protecting your lungs.
  • Special disposable face masks (marked as P1 or P2 in accordance with AS/NZS 1716:2012) should be worn. They are available at most hardware stores. ‘P2’ masks filter out a slightly higher proportion of fine particles than ‘P1’and are more common.
  • Wearing a P1 or P2 face mask can make it harder for you to breathe normally. If you have a heart or lung condition, talk to your doctor before using one.
  • You should note that these types of masks are much less effective if there is a poor seal around the face and mouth. Men with facial hair, especially beards, will have trouble getting a good seal.

Cleaning up and handling waste

Make sure you wear adequate protective clothing, gloves and shoes before handling any debris, ash or other waste.

  • Any items that could be flammable or toxic, such as gas bottles, petrol, drums/bottles of chemical or poison, should be left where they are or separated from other debris. Get advice from local fire safety officers on safely disposing of these items.
  • Wetting down ash and debris with water will help to limit airborne dust before you start cleaning up. Do not use high pressure water sprays as these can stir up ash and dust.
  • Don’t spread ash around your property, particularly if asbestos material or CCA-treated timber was burnt.
  • Building rubble should not be buried. Hazardous materials such as asbestos or chemicals may contaminate soil and groundwater, which may also require controlled clean-up.

More information

Contact Environmental Health Services at your local government (external site).

Last reviewed: 13-10-2023
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Questions? Ask your local government environmental health services