Date: May 23, 2008


The Summit Fire has deposited large amounts of ash and burned residential structures in and outside of the areas of the wildfires. The residual ash condition will continue for several weeks, even after the wildfires are extinguished. To better inform County residents of possible dangers from contact with the ash, County Public Health is providing this advisory for the safe handling and disposal procedures for ash involved debris.

The ash deposited by forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace. However, ash will contain small amount of cancer causing chemicals and can be irritating to the skin, especially to those with sensitive skin. If the ash is inhaled, it can be irritating to the nose, throat and lungs and may cause coughing. Exposure to airborne ash may trigger asthmatic attacks in individuals who already have asthma. Therefore, in order to avoid possible health problems, the following steps are recommended:

Ash and debris inside burned structures may contain more toxic substances than forest fire ash because of the many synthetic materials present in buildings. Older buildings in particular may contain asbestos and lead. Professional assistance should be sought in the removal of ash and other debris from burned structures.

For more information on ash and debris cleanup, visit:

The California Environmental Protection agency's website at,


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: