Cleanup and health safety


Clean up after flooding

Flood damage can cause many health dangers. Be aware of the risks and take steps to protect your health.



More flood cleanup information

Visit Floodwater After a Disaster or Emergency | CDC.




Cleanup after fires

General Cleanup Information

After you have checked for the proper functioning of your utilities and have been cleared by a County damage assessment team, you can start the cleanup of your home and property. Start to create an inventory and take photographs of things that have been damaged from fire, smoke, water, or chemicals. Do not throw away any damaged belongings or make repairs until your have spoken with your insurance company. Keep detailed records of all cleanup costs including materials and labor to submit to your insurance company or for income tax loss deductions.


Inside Burned & Damaged Structures

Ash and debris inside burned and damaged structures may contain more toxic substances than forest fire ash because of synthetic materials present in buildings. In addition, be aware that older buildings may contain asbestos and lead. If you have a structure which contains these materials, do not attempt to clean it yourself. Dust masks will not protect you from these harmful materials. For more information on asbestos removal visit, the San Diego County Asbestos Web site at Asbestos Program Page, and view the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District's site at

RELATED: Fire Damaged Buildings and Debris May Contain Harmful Asbestos Fibers

If you plan to rebuild, renovate, or demolish a structure that contains asbestos, you must also submit a notice of intention to the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District at least 10 days prior to starting work. For more information, visit Asbestos Renovations and Demolition Operations.

A more cautious approach should be taken in the removal of ash and other debris from inside burned structures, so make sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Don't work in or around any building damaged by fire until it has been examined and certified as safe for work by a registered professional engineer or architect.
  • Wear proper clothing including, a long sleeve shirt or jacket, long pants, boots, gloves, and safety mask (preferably one rated N-95 or P-100).
  • Do not consume any food, beverages or medications that have been exposed to smoke, ash, heat, pressure, or chemicals. For more information, visit this website's section on food safety.
  • Persons with heart or lung disease should consult a physician before doing cleanup.
  • Smoke can permeate cloth and other materials leaving with an intense smoky smell. While some clothing may require dry cleaning, other clothing should be washed in warm water with liquid detergent for one to five launderings.
  • Commercial cleaning may be needed for carpet, upholstery, and window treatments.
  • Do not allow children to play in ash or in debris areas.
  • Clean all children's toys before use.
  • Clean stove and hood filters.
  • Clean and sanitize utensils, glasses, dishware and food contact areas such as countertops and cupboards. To decontaminate these items:
    1. Wash them in a strong detergent solution
    2. Soak in a bleach solution of one teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. Soak for 15 minutes.
    3. Wash, rinse, air dry 

*You can also use the long wash cycle on your dishwasher to disinfect your wares as long as it is debris free, heats water to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and has a heated drying cycle. 

Additional Hazardous Waste and Recycling Resources

For more information on how to recycle and prevent water pollution during construction or demolition, download the 
County of San Diego's Construction and Demolition Recycling Guide.

In addition, there are several permanent facilities accepting household hazardous waste. To find the closest location to you call 1-877-R-1-EARTH.

Department of Environmental Health (DEH), County of San Diego

Questions or concerns about household hazardous waste, partially burned or exposed toxic substances visit: 
Household Hazardous Waste

California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control

Handling Ash, Debris and other Hazardous Materials from Burned Structures
Management of Hazardous Wastes from Burned Areas


Ash Cleanup

To clean ash, remember the three C's, Control, Contain and Capture.

Control: Try to control the amount of ash particles that get re-suspended into the air. Avoid using any equipment that blows ash into the air such as shop vacuums or leaf blowers. Instead, use vacuums with HEPA filters.

Contain: Contain ash by gently sweeping indoor and outdoor hard surfaces followed by wet mopping with a damp cloth. Ash may be disposed of in regular trash receptacles or in plastic bags. You may also allow water from cleaning to drain into landscaping as ash will not hurt plants or grass.

Capture: Protect storm drains from ash and any cleaning chemicals used while cleaning by diverting away from storm drains or recapturing. Ash is highly acidic, which is harmful for people, the environment and aquatic life.

Fact Sheet: Protecting Public Health from Home and Building Fire Ash (Safe Cleanup of Fire Ash) (PDF)


Swimming Pools

The Department of Environmental Health has guidelines for the maintenance of pools impacted by smoke and ash contamination or fire damage.

Pool Safety During Power Outages


Burned Vehicles

In case of a declared disaster, the County of San Diego will remove cars, trucks, trailers, boats, or any other vehicle licensed or required to be licensed under California Vehicle Code that has been burned in a wildfire in an unincorporated area, free of charge.

Any DMV-registered vehicle damaged in the Lilac Fire is eligible to be removed through the County's abandoned vehicle program. Leave a detailed message with the Department of Planning & Development Services Code Compliance Division's complaint line.

858-694-2705 and email:


Deceased Animal Disposal

If you have deceased animals on your property, it is your responsibility to remove them within 24 to 48 hours. For safety and health reasons animals must be buried,

  • in separate pits
  • on sites with at least 5 acres to allow for setback and restrictions
  • deep enough to cover the top of the carcass with 3 feet of compacted soil, earth, or ground to prevent invasion by  other animals
  • at least 100 feet from any standing or flowing water including streams, creeks, lakes, ponds, wells, and springs to prevent water contamination.
  • at least 5 feet from any ground water to prevent contamination
  • at least 25 feet from embankments, property lines, and structures other than homes
  • at least 100 feet from homes, roads, and highways

Members of the public requiring removal of dead animals can call the County’s Department of Animal Services Emergency Dispatch at (619) 236-2341. Dispatchers will ask for the location of the animal, the type of animal, and number of animals to be removed.

For information on disposal services, cremation, and landfills accepting deceased animals, contact Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency, (858) 495-5810.

For commercial livestock losses contact the County Veterinarian at (858) 694-2888.