Clean Up, Recovery, and Longer Term Assistance Guide
This information was compiled by the Grand County Office of Emergency Management to provide critical information to residents from the East Troublesome Fire area regarding re-entry and recovery.
Disclaimer: Grand County, including Grand County Office of Emergency Management, shall have no liability or responsibility of any kind to any user, other person or entity as a result of these guidelines. Grand County is not authorized to give legal, insurance policy, health or contracting advice. The use of any or all guidance presented is solely at the discretion of the user.
Longer Term Considerations
Do not return to your home until it is declared safe to do so by local authorities. Injury is very common after a disaster when returning home because of debris, sharp objects, and unstable structures. Protect yourself by wearing eye protection, a mask, sturdy boots, long sleeves, long pants and gloves when returning home and cleaning up.
Boil Water Order (beginning October 26, 2020)
See “Handy Flyer” on Drinking Water
The East Troublesome Fire may have impacted both well-water systems and municipal water distribution systems. As a precaution, beginning on October 26, 2020, a Boil Water Notice is hereby ordered to ensure the health of those consuming the water, until more information is available.
If you are on a municipal system, boil water until you are able to check with your provider and ensure that your water is safe.
We do not have an estimated duration for the length of this notice, so please check the Grand County website for updates as they become available.
What Does the Boil Water Order Mean?
- Boil your water before using.
- Bring tap water to a rolling boil, boil for one minute if initial appearance was clear, boil for 3 minutes if initial appearance was cloudy, and cool before using. Alternatively, use commercially bottled water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, washing dishes, brushing teeth, and preparing food until further notice. This Boil Water Order applies to all areas under previous evacuation notice in Grand County.
- Harmful microbes in drinking water can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms and may pose a special health risk for infants, some elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems. Nevertheless, these symptoms are not just caused by microbes in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you should seek medical advice.
- What should you do?
- For residents on municipal or water district systems, testing and any needed repairs may be required. Please check with your water provider for further information. Please follow the boil water notice until your water provider informs you that you no longer need to boil your water.
- For residents on wells, testing and any needed repairs may be required on your well pump and water system. Please review the following information from the CSU Extension - Addressing the Impacts of Fire on Water Resources:
- Following a wildfire, homeowners using a private well system are encouraged to first complete a visual inspection of their system and then promptly repair any damage before use. Damage to electrical wires, controls, pipes, tanks, and other components may affect system operation as well as compromise the safety of the water supply, or affect the proper disposal of wastewater.
- If the outside of your home or the yard area near your well has burned, you should have a licensed well technician inspect the system. The pump may be functioning; however, burned wires not visible from the surface could result in problems with the pump. If you do not have power to your home following the fire, a generator can be used to run the well. Contact a licensed well contractor, electrician, or your power company to determine the proper generator size. The pumping system could be damaged by using undersized generators. Once you have your well working, flush the system both inside and outside the house. If your water still tastes or smells earthy, smoky, or burnt, flush the water lines again and test the water with a certified laboratory for routine well water quality parameters. Please see specific information about local options for water testing and wells on page 4 of this guide.
- Click here to view the full guide with additional information on treatment options and considerations for livestock.
- The CDC also provides information on Making Water Safe.
Liquid Chlorine Bleach
If boiling is not possible, water can be made safe for drinking by treating it with liquid household chlorine bleach, such as Clorox, Purex, etc. Household bleach is typically between 5% and 6% chlorine. Do not use bleaches that contain perfumes, dyes, or other additives, or non-chlorine bleach alternatives. Be sure to read the label.
- Place the water (filtered if necessary) in a clean container. Add the amount of bleach according to the table. Mix thoroughly and allow it to stand for at least 30 minutes before using (60 minutes if the water is cloudy or very cold).
- Purifying tablets or chemicals designed for use when camping or backpacking can also be an effective way to treat water. Always follow the directions on the package.
Treating Water With a 5-8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach Solution
(Allow treated CLEAR water to stand 30 minutes; treated CLOUDY water should stand for 60 minutes) [tsp=teaspoon, mL=milliliter]
|Volume of Water To Be Treated||Bleach Solution to Add (Clear Water)|
Bleach Solution to Add (Cloudy, Very Cold, or Surface Water)
1 quart/ 1 liter
|2 drops||4 drops|
1/2 gallon/2 quarts/2 liters
|4 drops||8 drops or 1/8 tsp|
|8 drops or 1/8 tsp||16 drops or 1/4 tsp|
|40 drops or 2.5 mL or 1/2 tsp||5 mL or 1 tsp|
|5 mL or 1 tsp||10 mL or 2 tsp|
Storing Treated Water
- Use proper storage containers. Store the water in containers that are made for water storage, or glass and plastic jugs previously used for juice, milk, pop, or bottled water.
- Clean containers thoroughly before using and make sure that the container has a tight fitting cap. Never use containers that were previously used for pesticides, chemicals, solvents, anti-freeze, oils, etc
- Store in a cool place.
Propane Tank System
If you have a propane tank system, contact a propane supplier, turn off the valves, and leave the valves closed until the supplier inspects your system. Tanks, brass and copper fittings, and lines may have been damaged from the heat. If fire burned the tank, the pressure relief valve likely opened and released the contents.
Heating Oil Tank System
Water Testing of Wells
The Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District (WSD) can test well water for bacteria to make sure that the boil order can be lifted. Some water supplies affected by fire damage which may have melted system components, severely affected surface soils, or introduced chemicals may need additional testing (please read to the end of section). If your wellhead is damaged, please see the section above on Wells.
Through Tuesday, November 10th, Three Lakes Water and Sanitation District and Roadhouse Bar and Grill are collaborating to make sample collection bottles, instructions, and sample information forms available at the Roadhouse, located at 10188 US Hwy 34. As of November 12, these materials will be available directly from Three Lakes WSD, located at 1111 County Road 48. Analysis cost $25 and will need to be paid for with cash or check at the time of sample drop-off. Sampling materials are available as of 10/28/2020.
Follow the instructions provided with the sample bottle carefully and do not rinse out the bottle. Collect a cold water sample with clean hands or gloves from a non-aerated, non-swivel faucet after flushing the system for 1 minute. Samples collected anytime after 4:00 pm of the preceding day should be returned to the Roadhouse between 11:00am and 1:00pm. Samples cannot exceed hold times or they will be invalid. Samples don’t have to be refrigerated.
Sample results will be mailed, but the lab will also call if the sample contains bacteria. District phones are still down, but you may direct questions about that program to email@example.com.
Coliform bacteria sample collection bottles for overnight mailing or in-person delivery to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Lab in Denver may also be picked up in the Community Development Department, on the west end, lower level of the county administration building at 308 Byers Avenue in Hot Sulphur Springs.
If you believe you may need additional water testing due to fire damage, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Lab has provided the following four steps to get your water tested:
- Determine your testing needs (you can contact the chemistry lab for help with this at (303) 692-3048
- Order sampling bottles
- Collect the sample and fill out COC
- Deliver payment and samples to lab for testing
- Get your results in up to 28 days or in 14 business days (if rush payment is selected).
Lab testing is also available through Colorado State University’s Environmental Quality Laboratory.
If you have an above‐ground tank that was exposed to the fire, have the supply tested. If you are in doubt about water safety, have your water tested.
If you get your water from a water district, contact them to ensure that the water supply has not been contaminated.
See “Handy Flyer” on Septic Systems
Onsite wastewater (septic) systems have most of their functional components below ground and are typically more resistant to fire damage. However, it is important to inspect your system for damage to PVC piping above or near the ground that may have been affected by heat. It is also possible that firefighting activities, such as the digging of fire breaks or the use of heavy equipment, might damage some systems. Check the area around your septic system for signs of damage. If your wastewater disposal system has been damaged, or if your system is backing up or malfunctioning, discontinue use and contact a licensed engineer for guidance and instruction on repair and restoration of the system. If you have sewage visibly exposed or on the surface, limit access to the area, especially by children and pets. Then disinfect the area with bleach or hydrated lime and contact a licensed septic engineer for assistance in evaluating the condition of your wastewater treatment system. Additional CDPHE Guidance for Property Owners Impacted by Wildfires with Homes Served by Wells and Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems is available here.
Your septic system could also have been adversely affected by power outage if you have an electric-pump system. Once power is restored, reference your operations manual for directions to restart your system. If you are unsure or uncomfortable working with electrical components or do not completely understand how your system functions, contact your service provider or a licensed electrician. Always be careful when working with electrical components. Please reference the State Water Quality Control Division’s What to do when your Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Experiences a Power Outage for more details.
Other "Returning Home" Reminders
- Use caution and good judgment when re-entering a burn area and your home. Never assume that the area is safe.
- Avoid damaged power poles or lines and down wires. Immediately report electrical damage.
- Watch for ash pits, holes full of hot ash created by burned trees and stumps.
- If your home was damaged, check with your local utilities company. Make sure gas and electricity are turned off before entering the area. Professionals should determine if gas and electricity are safe to turn on.
- If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve. Always call the gas company if you suspect a leak. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a professional must turn it back on.
- Inspect the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers.
- Recheck for sparks or embers throughout the home, including the attic and crawl spaces, for several days after the fire. Sparks and embers can reignite.
If your pets or livestock were lost during the disaster please contact the Grand County Animal Shelter at 970-887-2988 or Olivia Clark at the CSU Extension in Kremmling at 970-531-4408. Be prepared to identify and document ownership when claiming lost livestock. The USDA Missing Pet Network website may be of assistance.
Handle pets carefully and calmly as animals can become upset and react in unusual ways after a disaster. When you are allowed to return home, animals may become disoriented because of changes to familiar scents and landmarks caused by the fire. If possible, leave your pet with a friend or family member, veterinarian, or a boarding facility while you clean and restore your home. Animals are naturally inquisitive and there are many dangers present in a post disaster area (sharp objects, downed electric lines, wild animals, disorientation leading to pets becoming lost, etc.).
- If exposed to ash, shampoo your pet thoroughly, since many of the fire retardants are very drying to skin and ash can be caustic and potentially harmful to skin, especially if wet..
- Cover up areas of potentially contaminated standing water pets may have access to using materials such as soil or sand.
- Do not allow pets or livestock to ingest water that may contain fire retardant or other chemicals – keep animals away from puddles.
- If your pet appears ill after drinking from puddles or standing water, make sure your veterinarian knows that the animal may have ingested a fertilizer-based product (fire-retardant).
Flooding, Land Recovery and Conservation
See “Handy Flyer” on Flooding
The offices of Grand County Natural Resources, Middle Park Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Colorado State Forest Service, among others, are here to help with land recovery and conservation. While land destruction can occur in a matter of moments, land recovery takes time.
The loss of vegetation on land impacted by wildfires makes it prone to wind and water erosion. This ultimately affects water quality and sedimentation in downstream water sources. In areas that burned at high severity, many trees that are still standing may be a hazard to landowners. Depending on the fire’s intensity, the soil’s nutrients, biome, and physical properties may also be altered. Additionally, fire-impacted ecosystems are susceptible to post-fire invasion and establishment of noxious weeds, which compete with desired native forb, shrub, and tree species for space and nutrients.
The natural resource management partners in the county are also looking into federal technical and financial assistance that will help with immediate needs related to watershed protection. Details on this program are still being discussed. That being said, there are still things you can do now to start the land recovery process. Seeding impacted soils with desired species are one such practice. Seeding may be done up until the first perennial snow of the year (the first snow that sticks around).
For additional assistance with natural resource concerns, contact:
Grand County Natural Resources, 970-887-0745
Middle Park Conservation District, 970-724-3456 ext 4
Colorado State Forest Service, 970-887-3121
Respiratory Health & Mask Use
Inhaling ash can be harmful to your health, as ash can be caustic and can contain toxic substances from burned synthetic and hazardous materials as well as chemicals used to fight fire. Following these guidelines can help prevent ash inhalation:
- Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Do not use leaf blowers or take other actions that will put ash into the air.
- Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
- When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, cigarettes or gas stoves.
- Shop vacuums and other common vacuum cleaners do not filter out small particles, but rather blow such particles out the exhaust into the air where they can be breathed in. The use of shop vacuums and other non-HEPA filter vacuums is not recommended. HEPA filter vacuums could be used, if available
- Well-fitting dust masks may provide some protection during cleanup. A “particulate respirator” can help to protect your lungs during cleanup efforts. Persons with a heart or lung disease should consult their physician before using a mask during post-fire cleanup.
- DO NOT use bandanas (wet or dry), paper or surgical masks, or tissues held over the mouth and nose. These will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke or debris.
- Choose a mask called a “particulate respirator” that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. These are sold at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies. N95 masks do not protect against vapors or fumes.
- Choose a mask that has two straps that go around your head. DO NOT choose a mask with only one strap or one with straps that just hook over the ears.
- Choose a size that will fit over your nose and under your chin. It should seal tightly to your face. These masks do not come in sizes that fit young children.
See “Handy Flyer” on Food Safety
After a power outage, NEVER taste food to determine its safety. You will have to evaluate each item separately—use these tables as a guide. When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
Fire and smoke create insoluble tars, plastics, and their by-products that may be suspended in the smoke for an extended period of time. All of these make food products unsalvageable. Food exposed to fire can be compromised by four factors: heat, smoke, firefighting chemicals and power outages affecting refrigeration:
- Heat: Food in cans or jars may appear to be fine, but if they have been close to the heat of a fire, they may not be edible. Heat from a fire can activate food spoilage from bacteria. If the heat is severe, the cans or jars can split or rupture, resulting in unsafe food.
- Discard foods in cans or jars, as extreme heat can re-cook canned goods and adversely affect the contents.
- Smoke fumes: Toxic fumes, which may be released from burning materials, are one of the most dangerous elements of a fire. The fumes can be hazardous, and they also can permeate packaging and contaminate food.
- Discard all meats, oil products such as butter, and produce.
- Discard food stored in permeable packaging with friction-type closures and food packed in cardboard, cellophane, or plastic wrap.
- Discard raw foods stored outside the refrigerator.
- Firefighting chemicals: Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials that can contaminate food and cookware. While some of the chemicals may be listed as non‐toxic to humans, they can be harmful if swallowed. These chemicals cannot be washed off food.
- Discard all foods that have been exposed to chemicals, including food stored at room temperature (such as fruit and vegetables), and food stored in permeable containers (like cardboard and not-sealed jars and bottles).
- Canned goods and cookware exposed to chemicals can be decontaminated if they have not been subjected to severe heat:
- Wash with soap and hot water. After washing, dip in chlorine bleach for 2 minutes, in a solution as directed on the bottle’s label. Rinse and let air dry.
- Loss of refrigeration: After an extended power outage, refrigerators and freezers should be reviewed, and all perishable food should be discarded. Please check out these tablesfor detailed information on which foods are safe to keep or not.
- Food unfit for human consumption also is unfit for pets.
- If in doubt, throw it out!
- Decontaminating canned goods and kitchen appliances: Canned goods that have not been exposed to heat and are not bulging or split open can be salvaged. Kitchen appliances (refrigerator, freezers, etc.) that were exposed to chemicals can also be decontaminated. Wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers should also be discarded.
- To decontaminate:
- Wash canned goods (remove labels), cookware, and surfaces of kitchen appliances with hot water and soap.
- Rinse surfaces with clear water.
- Dip cans and cookware in bleach solution (1-2 teaspoons bleach per gallon of water) for 15 minutes. Wipe surfaces with the same solution.
- Re-label canned goods with permanent marker, including expiration date.
- To decontaminate:
CSU Extension also has a great info sheet on cleaning: Returning to your Kitchen after a Wildfire Evacuation. This info is also listed below.
- Supplies: One of the most critical areas needing to be cleaned after a wildfire evacuation is the home kitchen, since many foods may have spoiled without refrigeration and/or been damaged from exposure to heat or smoke. Plan ahead and have the necessary supplies when returning to your home. Here are some items to consider:
- Potable water for drinking and cleaning. It may be necessary to bring a supply of water for both drinking and cleaning if you are uncertain about the availability of water in your home. Various sizes of drinking water containers are generally available at most grocery stores.
- Baking soda
- Dish soap
- Rubber gloves and/or disposable gloves to wear while cleaning out refrigerators and freezers
- Paper towels for cleaning
- Heavy duty trash bags
- Safety masks in case of a strong smoke odor and/or smoke and ash particulates in the air
- Camera to document contents of refrigerators and freezers.
- Cleaning out refrigerators and freezers after an extended time without power
- Perishable foods kept at room temperature provide an environment well suited for rapid growth of microorganisms – including types that cause food spoilage and foodborne illness. Removing those spoiled food items and properly cleaning interior surfaces of the refrigerator and freezer is a priority after returning to your house.
- Use heavy duty trash bags for gathering spoiled food items and transporting to a discard site.
- Don't overfill bags to prevent leakage.
- Liquid residues may have dried in hard to reach areas of refrigerator and freezer shelving. If shelves and drawers are removable, take out to immerse in water and clean well.
- Clean inside surfaces with a solution of dish soap in water. For removing odors, use a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of warm water. Activated charcoal, available from aquarium or garden supply stores, placed in a shallow container inside the refrigerator may also help in removing odors.
- If you are considering discarding an appliance because of odors as a result of spoiled food, check with your insurance agent; insurance generally covers fire damage, not damage as a result of spoiled food.
Dumpster Sites for Food Disposal
The Grand County Office of Emergency Management has organized dumpsters to be strategically placed along the Highway 34 corridor for FOOD DISPOSAL ONLY. Dumpsters are located at the following locations.
Please remember, these dumpsters are for FOOD ONLY. Please DO NOT dispose of debris in these dumpsters!
- Grand Lake Center
- Columbine Lake Club Office
- Intersection of County Road 46 and US Hwy 34
- Intersection of County Road 64 and US Hwy 34
- Stillwater Boat Ramp
Hazardous debris dumpsters will be placed in subdivisions/communities most affected by the fire. Those dumpsters are to be used only by those residents.
Retail Food Establishments
Retail food establishments must follow specific procedures for the proper salvage and disposal of food items and equipment clean-up. Review information related to boil water orders, sewer backup, gas outage, power outage, food salvage/disposal, and direct fire impact here.
Ash and debris from burned structures may be caustic or contain toxic substances that can be harmful to human health and the environment because of the many synthetic and hazardous materials present in homes and buildings. In addition, older buildings have a greater potential of containing asbestos and lead. Fire ash may irritate the skin, nose, and throat and can trigger asthmatic attacks or worsen other chronic respiratory disease symptoms. Those who suffer from heart and lung disease, children, and the elderly are more likely to be affected by ash inhalation. To avoid possible health issues:
- Do not allow children to play in the ash. Wash ash from toys before allowing children to play with them.
- Wash ash off household pets.
- Wear gloves, long‐sleeved shirts, and long pants when cleaning ash, and avoid skin contact. If ash does get on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.
- Well‐fitting dust masks may provide some protection during cleanup.
Ash and non-structural debris should be contained and disposed of in a safe manner to minimize health hazards.
- To prevent drinking water and wastewater treatment system damage, the wellhead and septic system (including the soil treatment area) should be located and clearly marked prior to removal of debris. Once located, driving over the area or any other water/wastewater components should be avoided.
- To prevent groundwater contamination due to a damaged wellhead, it is recommended that ash and debris should not be removed until the wellhead is properly covered or protected. If you believe your wellhead has been damaged, a well industry professional assessment is recommended. Please see the section above on wells.
- Avoid circulating ash into the air as much as possible. Do not use shop vacuums, other non‐HEPA filter vacuums, or air blowers.
- If you wet down ash, use as little water as possible. Avoid washing ash into storm drains.
- Collected non-structural debris may be disposed of in the regular trash. Ash may be stored in plastic bags or other containers to help prevent it from being disturbed.
The US Forest Service offers this guide for cleanup of fire-fighting chemicals.
Asbestos & Structural Debris Disposal
One particular concern in handling debris from residential structures damaged or destroyed by wildfires is the possible exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and exposure to asbestos fibers can cause or contribute to the development of various diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos fibers have been commonly used in a variety of building materials including wall and ceiling textures, drywall, insulation, sheet vinyl flooring and floor tiles. Asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition should not pose a hazard. However, materials that are damaged or disturbed can release asbestos fibers creating a potential exposure risk for building occupants and neighbors. To address this, Colorado law has detailed requirements related to the proper identification, handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
Any action to remove debris from partially or fully damaged structures requires submission of written notification to the CDPHE Indoor Environment Program: East Troublesome Fire Disposal Notification Form.
The only landfills approved to accept ash and structural debris from the East Troublesome Fire are listed in this East Troublesome Fire Asbestos/Structural Debris Disposal Guide.
Smoke Residue & Odor
You may be anxious to clean your home after a fire, but unless you take the time to get professional advice, you may be wasting your efforts or creating further damage. Contact your insurance agency immediately once the fire is out. He or she can provide advice on restoration or replacement of damaged items. Your insurance agent may be able to recommend a professional fire restorer. Fire restorers can provide hints to prevent further damage, help determine which items can or cannot be refurbished, and provide estimates and services for thoroughly cleaning and deodorizing your home.
Removing smoke odor from textiles
Smoke odor may remain in clothing, upholstered furniture, carpets and draperies unless they are properly deodorized before cleaning. Professional assistance is recommended. Consult professional fire restorers and/or dry cleaners about using "counteractants," chemicals or additives that break up smoke molecules to eliminate odors. The type of counteractant used will vary with the type of material burned in the fire. Counteractants may be professionally applied to furniture, carpets and draperies. Restorers also may provide them for laundering clothes. If you are unable to have clothing or similar textiles professionally treated, try one of the following methods:
Dissolve one cup of dishwashing detergent (the type used in an automatic dishwasher) in one gallon of warm water. Completely submerge the items and let them soak all night in your washing machine or bathtub. Drain and launder as usual the next day.
For items that can be bleached, mix 4 to 6 tablespoons trisodium phosphate (available from your hardware store) with 1 cup of household chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water. Add clothes, rinse with clear water and dry.
Cleaning furnishings and clothing
After deodorizing, it's time to clean household textiles. Take non-washable clothing and draperies to a dry cleaner for traditional dry cleaning or a special cleaning process. Wash regular clothing in warm water with a liquid detergent. Several launderings may be needed. Have carpets cleaned twice—both before and after repairs. Wet carpets must be dried before cleaning. In some cases, removal of carpet is necessary for complete drying and to save the wood floor beneath.
Cleaning soot stains from the walls
If possible, use a chemical sponge available from a cleaning supply company or some other non-water-based cleaner to clean soot from walls. Paint thinner or rubbing alcohol may work, but use with caution because of toxicity and fumes. Wear rubber gloves, open all windows and use an electric fan to increase ventilation while working. Do not use a water-based cleaner on plaster walls. It will cause the stain to bleed into the wall.
Removing smoke odor from the home
During a fire, smoke can permeate walls and other surfaces and drift through household ducts, where it becomes trapped. If not properly removed, smoke odor reoccurs from time to time, especially during warm or damp weather. Consult professional restorers about a process known as "thermal fogging." This warm chemical fog penetrates your home and walls just as the fire did, neutralizing the smoke odor as it goes.
Consult restorers about smoke removal from ducts. They may use a chemical sealer to secure smoke permanently to the sides of ducts since these areas, with their joints and crevices, may be difficult to clean with conventional vacuum-and-brush methods. Consider replacement of attic insulation, which may retain odors.
Chemicals used to fight fires contain toxic materials that can contaminate food and cookware. While some of the chemicals may be listed as non-toxic to humans, they may be harmful if swallowed. Fire-fighting chemicals cannot be washed off exposed foods. Foods that are exposed to chemicals should be thrown away. This includes food stored at room temperature, such as fruit and vegetables, as well as foods stored in permeable containers like cardboard and screw-topped jars and bottles.
- Fire retardant contains ammonia and will sting if it gets into cuts or scratches or comes into contact with chapped or sunburned skin.
- Wash thoroughly with a gentle soap and water to remove all residues, as many of the fire chemicals could dry your skin.
- After washing, use a good-quality hand cream to minimize drying and chapping.
Wood and Metal Structures
- The red color of fire retardants comes from iron oxide (rust), which can be difficult to remove.
- Wash fire retardant off as soon as possible. Some of these products may discolor metal.
- Dampening a stained surface with water, and then scrubbing it with a wet, stiff-bristled brush has been effective.
- Power washers may drive the red colorant into the surface of the wood and should generally be avoided.
- Restrict water use to prevent puddles that may be attractive to pets.
- Avoid leaving standing puddles of water by using absorbent materials, such as sand or soil.
- Rinse fire retardant off vegetation.
- Avoid leaving standing puddles of water by applying absorbent materials, such as sand or soil.
- Leaf burn may occur since fire retardants contain fertilizer and at levels higher than what is often sold at garden stores. This could cause vegetation and plants to appear dead after contact; however, they will generally recover and grow back, usually within one to two months.
- Fruit and vegetables exposed to fire retardant should be properly disposed of at a designated inedible food collection
See “Handy Flyer” on Protecting Your Health
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur during emergencies, the use of generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, or camper, or even outside near an open window.
- Symptoms: Most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Carbon Monoxide detectors should be checked twice a year, at the same time batteries are checked. If conditions at home are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
To report an environmental spill or release of potentially hazardous material, contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s 24/7 Emergency Reporting Line at 1-877-518-5608.
See “Handy Flyer” on Mental Health and Trauma
Crisis counselors may provide outreach and education services about coping with the emotional difficulties in the aftermath of emergencies.
- Symptoms include anger, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity and/or increased alcohol or drug use.
Stress may manifest in a different way for everyone and may appear weeks or months after a traumatic event. If you or someone you know is experiencing distress or feeling overwhelmed by painful emotions related to recent events, call Colorado Crisis Services 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 where experienced crisis counselors can be reached.
Other Mental Health Links
Crisis Line, 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255
Mind Springs Health support line, 877-519-7505
Mind Springs Granby Office, 970-887-2179
Mental health resources for wildfire survivors
Coping with disaster
Helping children cope with disaster
Disaster distress helpline
Local Mental Health Contacts: Grand County Contact Info & Resources
Tetanus and First Aid
See “Handy Flyer” on Tetanus
After a fire, there is risk of injury as cleanup efforts begin. Tetanus is a concern for persons with both open and closed wounds, and a tetanus vaccination is recommended for all residents returning to the burn area who have not had a documented dose within the past five years. Prompt first aid management for wounds and prevention of infection is another important consideration. If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, a healthcare professional should determine if a tetanus booster is necessary.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if:
- There is a foreign object embedded in the wound.
- The wound is at special risk of infection (such as a dog bite or a puncture by a dirty object).
- A previous wound shows signs of becoming infected (e.g. increased pain, heat, swelling, redness, draining, or fever).
Care for Minor Wound
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water.
- Avoid touching the wound with your fingers while treating it.
- Remove obstructive jewelry and clothing from the injured area.
- Apply direct pressure to any bleeding wound to control bleeding.
- Clean the wound after bleeding has stopped.
- Examine wounds for dirt and foreign objects.
- Gently flood the wound with clean water, then gently clean around the wound with soap and water.
- Pat the wound dry and apply an adhesive bandage or dry clean cloth.
- Wounds in contact with soil and sand can become infected.
- Puncture wounds can carry bits of clothing and dirt into wounds and result in infection.
- Crush injuries are more likely to become infected than wounds from cuts.
Wildfire Smoke & Your Health
Smoke from wildfires is a combination of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation and trees. Smoke can hurt your eyes and irritate your respiratory system, with possible exacerbated symptoms in children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory and heart conditions. No matter your physical condition, if you see smoke from the wildfire in your area, limit physical activity and stay indoors if possible. Inhaling smoke is unhealthy for everyone. Protect yourself and limit your exposure to smoke by monitoring the local air quality reports.
Air quality updates are available here.
Symptoms Related To Wildfire Smoke
- Eye, nose and/or throat irritation-itchy eyes and/or runny nose.
- Coughing, sore throat.
- Chest discomfort, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, and shortness of breath may be symptoms of a health emergency.
- There is an increased likelihood of getting a cold or having cold-like symptoms following smoke exposure.
- If you have asthma or another lung or heart disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medications and respiratory management plan. If symptoms persist or are severe, contact your primary health care provider. Dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.
If Smoke is Affecting You and/or Your Family
- If you smell smoke and/or are beginning to experience symptoms, consider temporarily relocating to another area as long as it is safe for you to do so.
- Seek out locations where air is filtered. For example, heading to the local mall, movie theater or recreation center can provide some temporary relief. Local health officials can often help locate places with better air quality during extended smoke episodes.
- Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.
- Only if filtered, run the air conditioning, the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off) or your evaporative cooler. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.
- If you have any HEPA room air filtration units, use them.
- In smoky air, reduce your physical activity level. Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke.
- Make healthy eating choices, drink plenty of fluid, get ample sleep, and exercise in clean air. Mitigate stress as much as possible.
- Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke, vacuuming, candles and other sources of additional air pollution.
- Commercially available dust masks may seem like a good idea, but they do virtually nothing to filter out the particles and gasses in smoke.
- At night, smoke can be heavy, especially if outdoor air is still. Close bedroom windows at night
- Adapted from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
Hazardous Household Materials (Non Structural)
Everyday items, such as household cleaners, fertilizers, and pesticides, contain dangerous chemicals that may have spilled in or near your home during a wildfire. Be alert for leaking or compromised containers and reactive household chemicals, such as drain cleaners and chlorine bleach. Take these steps to prevent injury or damage:
- Keep children and pets away from leaking or spilled chemicals.
- Do not combine chemicals from leaking or damaged containers; doing so might produce dangerous chemical reactions.
- Don’t pour chemicals in drains, storm sewers, or toilets.
- Do not try to burn household chemicals.
- Clearly mark and set aside unbroken containers until they can be properly disposed of.
- Leave damaged or unlabeled chemical containers undisturbed whenever possible.
- Do not put household chemicals in the trash. When discarding these products, they become household hazardous waste requiring proper disposal.
- Do not put chemicals in a trash bag. Use boxes or plastic tubs to transport.
- Transport chemicals in the trunk of your vehicle.
Longer Term Considerations
See “Handy Flyer” on First Steps After a Wildfire
Disasters often attract scam artists and those affected by the fire should be vigilant in protecting their personal assets. The best way to verify authorized insurance agent is to contact the Colorado Division of Insurance. Visit their website and click on “Verify Agent / Company License”. Consumers can also call the Division of Insurance at 303-894-7490. Consumers should know that inspectors that come to your residence will never solicit for personal information such as social security and bank account numbers. Also, under no circumstances are insurance agents (and FEMA or SBA representatives) allowed to accept money- if you are solicited for an application fee or a fee to be put on a list to have your home repaired be cautious of this potential scam.
If your home has suffered damages because of the fire, please follow these guidelines regarding documentation and communicating with insurance agents.
- Residents evacuated from their homes should contact their insurance agents or companies immediately and let them know where they can be reached.
- Keep receipts. Out of pocket expenses during a mandatory evacuation are reimbursable under most standard homeowner policies; this may include living expenses while you are evacuated from your home.
- Be prepared to give a detailed list of damaged or destroyed personal property- this list should be as thorough as possible including a description of the items, dates of purchase and approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Make a copy for yourself and a copy for your adjuster.
- Photos of the damage may help with your claims process-wait until authorities allow you back into your home.
- Make whatever temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase. Your insurance company may reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
Adapted from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association Information on the Homeowners Insurance Settlement Process.
Contact the Colorado Division of Insurance if you feel that your insurance company is not handling your claim appropriately. 303-894-7490
If your vehicle has been damaged by the fire, do not try to start it. Contact your insurance agent. Do not attempt to dispose of your vehicle at the landfill; it will not be accepted.
Further information on Auto Claims can be found through the Rocky Mountain Information Insurance Association.
Renter’s Insurance and Rights
Renters/tenants are not responsible for the building in which they live; the landlord’s insurance policy should cover damages to the building. Tenants ARE responsible for their own belongings and liability. If you rent and your personal property was damaged or lost because of the disaster, please contact your renter’s insurance company as soon as possible. Further information on Renter’s Insurance can be found here.
If a natural disaster damages or destroys a housing unit to the point of unsafe or uninhabitable living conditions (there are specific guidelines) this may violate the Warranty of Habitability Act. In this case, the landlord or the tenant may rescind the lease as long as the proper notice is given. Landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state and even county to county, please seek legal counsel for specifics (reasonable notice, health/safety repairs vs. uninhabitable living, security deposit, etc.). Information on rent abatement and/or security deposits should be disclosed in the lease.
Assistance & Information
Grand County Department of Human Services
The Department of Human Services may provide services to assist individuals and families in achieving self sufficiency and social well-being including financial assistance for shelter, food, and medical care.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency may provide services to assist individuals and families following a disaster. Please visit their website to learn more about Disaster Survivor Assistance.
If you lost your job as a direct result of the fire, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Please visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for information regarding these benefits.
Colorado Workforce Centers
Workforce Centers provide a variety of free services to assist job seekers. These include job listings, computer & internet access, career counseling and training for job seekers.
The Frisco Workforce Center serves Grand County residents with their employment and unemployment needs. The people that are affected by the fire in Grand County and are not able to work they can apply for Unemployment benefits. They can apply online - click on file a claim. The Frisco Workforce Center is available now to help file an unemployment claim over the phone if they do not have computer internet access. Click here for more information. Call the Frisco Workforce Center at 970-668-5361.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development may provide funds to help repair homes. If granted, the 203K Rehabilitation Home Mortgage Insurance may be used to rehabilitate or improve an existing home. Please visit their website for further information.
Change of Address
A change of address form is available online or at any U.S. Postal Service location. If you change residence make sure that your address is current and all of the insurance agents that you have been working with are aware of your new address.
Financial Services & Consumer Advice
Among many other stressors, disasters take a financial toll. Please review the Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues to help you regain a sense of financial balance following a disaster, including suggestions on steps to take immediately, what to do in the initial weeks and months, and then how to begin planning again for the future.
Social Security Payments
Anyone receiving Social Security payments that have been interrupted can go to any Social Security office to get an emergency payment. For information about changing mailing addresses, obtaining a new card, direct deposit, or locating the nearest Social Security office, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. / Monday through Friday or visit their website.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Those who already receive SSI and SSDI should contact the Social Security Administration directly at 1-800-772-1213 to learn how checks may be reissued, cards replaced or to report a change in address.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or if you want to find out how to avoid fraud when making purchases and paying for services, contact the Colorado Consumer Protection Division by telephone at 1-800-222-4444 or visit their website.
Better Business Bureau
Consumer Credit Counseling Service
Insurance Complaints and Assistance
Below are local resources available to those who need legal counsel and services due to the disaster. If needed, please seek legal resources regarding housing, family, consumer, public entitlements, education, employment, and health care access.
Colorado Legal Services
Civil legal services for low-income individuals and families.
Colorado Official Birth, Death, Marriage, and Divorce Records
The Colorado Department of Public Health Environment, Certificates and Vital Records can help replace birth, death, marriage and divorce records. For more information call 303-692-2200 or visit their website.
Colorado Drivers License of Identification Cards
The Colorado Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles can help replace identification documents. Please visit their website to download required forms or find your local Department of Revenue.
Replacement Social Security Cards
If your Social Security card was destroyed in the fire, it is important to replace the card because you will need to show the card to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and receive some other government services. Please visit their website to apply for a new card.
Preserving Wet Documents
To preserve family treasures, review this information from the National Archives
Other Helpful Links
Replace your vital records
Repairs and Rebuilding
First speak with insurance agents and adjusters to discuss your coverage. Replacement costs will frequently include rebuilding to current codes and regulations. Improved methods and materials have become standard practice with more attention to updated weatherization and energy requirements. Be careful to choose a licensed and experienced architect and/or contractor and be cautious of scam artists and fraud.
Verify licensure, file complaints and find other consumer information through the following:
Better Business Bureau
Colorado law requires at least three business days notice, prior to outdoor construction or digging. Whomever is excavating -property owners or contractors- must call the Utility Notification Center of Colorado (UNCC) by dialing 8-1-1 or 1-800-922-1987. UNCC will mark the site with paint, flags or stakes. Please respect the marks and dig with care, hand digging within two feet to buried piping and facilities. For additional information visit the UNCC website.
The American Red Cross has created this booklet with further information on how to recover from a fire.
Boil Water FAQs
Who can be affected and what are the symptoms of water-borne illness?
Anyone who ingests contaminated water may become ill. Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness. Disease symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and possible jaundice and associated headaches and fatigue. Symptoms may appear as early as a few hours to several days after infection and may last more than two weeks. These symptoms, however, are not just associated with disease-causing organisms in drinking water; they may also be caused by a number of other factors. If you are ill with these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.
Why must I boil my water?
A boil order has been issued to your water system due to recent wildfire activity in your area. During response activities, municipal water systems may have lost water pressure, resulting in potential bacterial contamination. Private wells may also be affected by loss of water pressure or direct fire damage. Following a wildfire, the primary source of contamination to drinking water is from chemicals and microorganisms that can enter a fire-damaged well system. Human health could be adversely affected from either short or long term exposure to contaminants in the water and sediment may cloud water, or cause it to taste or smell smoky or earthy.
How can I make my water safe?
Boiling the water is the best way to ensure that it is free of illness-causing organisms. Please see the guidance in the Boil Water Order section above. Additional testing for chemical contamination may be required. Please see the sections on water systems and water testing, above.
I have a water treatment device; do I still need to boil my drinking water?
If the device is designed to improve the taste and odor or chemical quality of the water, such as activated carbon filters, it is still necessary to boil the water. Check with the manufacturer if you are not certain.
Can I use bottled water?
Buying bottled water may be a feasible alternative to boiling water. Bottled water operations are routinely inspected, and samples are periodically analyzed to ensure they meet health standards.
During a boil order, can I wash my hands using tap water?
It is recommended that you wash your hands using soap and either bottled water or boiled water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer may also be used.
Is it necessary to boil all water in the home during an advisory or order?
During boil water advisories or boil water orders, you should boil all water used for drinking, preparing food, beverages, ice cubes, washing fruits and vegetables, or brushing teeth. Severely immuno-compromised individuals should always boil their tap water for the purposes noted above. Infant formulas should be prepared using boiled tap water, at all times.
During a boil order, can my family take showers or baths using tap water?
The risk of bathing in tap water is uncertain and so should be avoided particularly by people with open wounds or who are immune-compromised. For those people who choose to shower or bathe in the tap water, minimize the time spent in the water and be sure to keep your eyes and mouth closed. Babies and young children should not bath or shower in tap water because they often swallow some water accidentally.
During a boil order, can I wash dishes using tap water?
You may use a dishwasher if it has a sanitizing cycle. If it does not have a sanitizing cycle, or you are not sure if it does, you may hand wash dishes and utensils by following these steps:
- Wash the dishes as you normally would.
- Immerse the dishes for at least one minute in lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water has been added.
- Allow the dishes to completely air dry.
What can I do with my tap water?
|Activity||Can I Use Tap Water?||Activity||Can I Use Tap Water?|
|Ice cubes||No, and existing ice cubes should be thrown out. See below for information on ice machines.||Coffee, Tea, Lemonade, etc.||No|
|Baby formula||No||Watering grass or garden|
Yes, but fruits/vegetables must be washed using boiled or bottled water before consumption.
|Washing fruit and vegetables||No|
Can I use my coffee maker, ice machine, water or soda dispenser?
None of these devices should be used if they are directly connected to your water supply. Also, filters are unacceptable for removing bacteria. Once you have been notified that the boil order has been lifted, these devices should be cleaned and sanitized according to the operator's manual for the device.
Can I give my pets tap water?
Although pets are not normally affected by the same diseases as humans, caution suggests giving pets boiled or bottled water.
What if I drank the water already?
There is nothing you can do about the exposure you have already received. If you become ill, contact your healthcare provider. Follow the above recommendations about using your water until you are told the water is safe again.
How long will the boil order remain in effect?
If you are on well water and receive a negative result after bacterial (coliform) testing, you may stop boiling your water. If you are on a public water system, you should contact your water supplier or manager to know when the water supply has been determined to be safe.
What should I do when the boil water advisory or order has been lifted?
Specific instructions will be provided by your water system manager. Consumers and well owners with a negative bacteria should flush water pipes within the home. When flushing it is important to carefully follow the instructions provided. Some types of water treatment devices may need to be disinfected and flushed to remove any contaminated water before being used. Depending on the type of water treatment device, the device may need to be replaced. Check with the manufacturer for details.