by Sierra Larson
Addressing Holiday Farm Fire evacuees at the Lane Events Center on 26 September, Lane County Public Works director Daniel Hurley instructed residents to not move anything at their homes and businesses until their insurance company has had a chance to assess the damage.
Fire-damaged buildings can contain many hazards, including unstable structures, toxic chemicals, exposed electrical lines, and skin, eye, and lung irritants. Any home built before 2004 should be assumed to contain asbestos. In addition to putting yourself in potential danger, doing clean up before the insurance company has done an assessment may affect your claim.
FEMA and the State of Oregon have partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove dangerous household waste at no cost to the property owner. They will be removing propane tanks, pesticides, batteries, herbicides, paints, and large pieces of asbestos. The county will contact property owners to sign access agreement contracts to allow cleanup crews onto the property.
Even if your property was built after 2004, get the debris tested for asbestos. It is less commonly used in newer building materials, but it is still better to be safe than sorry. If your tests come back positive for asbestos, hire a licensed asbestos cleanup contractor. You can find an asbestos contractor by calling the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency at 541-736-1056.
After your insurance company and other professionals have assessed your property and cleared you to return, be sure to wear protective gear. Sturdy footwear, goggles, long sleeves and pants, and gloves will protect your skin and eyes from falling ash. Wear an N95 mask to avoid breathing in fumes, fiberglass particles, asbestos, and ash. Cloth and surgical masks will not provide enough protection. If possible, wear a pair of coveralls over your clothing and dispose of them after you are done. If you do not have coveralls, be sure to change into clean clothing after you have gone through the debris of your home.
For safety reasons, children should not help in cleanup or be on a fire-damaged property.
Lane County’s McKenzie Bridge transfer station is accepting household garbage, spoiled food, and recycling. It will not accept ash or bulk debris from burnt structures.