Staff Report


Cleaning up ashes from the Thomas Fire can be bad for your health if it isn’t done properly.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District advises that anyone with heart or lung problems should not even attempt ash cleanup.

Worse, when houses burn, asbestos fibers from building materials may become airborne and create a very hazardous situation. Handling materials that contain asbestos can be hazardous to your health.

Don’t allow children to play in the ash and do not use leaf blowers, which make the airborne ash more dangerous.

For general ash cleanup:

  •  Use damp cloths, spray areas lightly with water, and direct ash-filled water to ground areas away from the runoff system. Try to use the minimum amount of water necessary to avoid overtaxing runoff systems.
  •  Use vacuums with HEPA filters, or sweep gently with a broom.
  •  Take your car to the car wash.
  •  Wash off toys that have been outside in the ash; clean ash off pets.
  •  Avoid any skin contact with the ash by wearing long pants, socks, gloves and long-sleeved shirts.
  •  Use a high-quality shop or industrial vacuum outfitted with a high-efficiency particulate filter and a disposable collection filter bag. Ash can be bagged and put into trash cans, so it will not be stirred up again into the air.

Special attachments can be used to clean ash from gutters so that it will not blow back over outdoor spaces. Attachments and disposable bags are available from most hardware stores.

For more information, go to and click on “Safe Ash Cleanup.”