Returning to your property after a rural fire

Houses, sheds and other buildings or structures burnt in a rural fire can leave potential health hazards including fallen objects, sharp objects, smouldering coals, damaged electrical wires, leaking gas and weakened walls.

Hazardous materials to be aware of after a fire include:

  • Asbestos;
  • Ashes, especially from burnt treated timbers (such as copper chrome arsenate or ‘CCA’)
  • dust
  • garden or farm chemicals
  • LP gas cylinders
  • medicines
  • metal and other residues from burnt household appliances
  • other general chemicals (for example, cleaning products).

Check with your local emergency services that it is safe to return to your property. Where possible, try to avoid taking children onto fire-damaged properties. If you do, ensure they remain protected at all times.

Water tanks

Rural fires generate large amounts of smoke and ash, and your tank water could have become contaminated from debris and ash or dead animals. If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual do not drink it or give it to animals.


All foods that have been fire-damaged or affected by heat should be thrown out. This includes all perishable and non-perishable foods, for example, cans or packaged foods. Power outages can leave perishable foods that may have been refrigerated unsafe to eat

Take care of yourself

Returning to your property may be stressful and exhausting. It is important that you look after yourself and access mental health and counselling services if required.

Anyone experiencing persistent issues impacting their day-to-day lives are encouraged to talk to their General Practitioner or regular health care provider.

ANEPC Advice

The ANEPC have provided the following advice concerning actions following a fire.

  • Be careful when you return to a recently burned area, there may be some relapses. Check for combustion zones in your home or around them and extinguish them if they exist;
  • If your home is evacuated, return only when the authorities advise you;
  • Make sure your home is not at risk of collapsing. Be careful of exposed electrical wires and other hazards;
  • Prevent children from playing at the scene of the fire following its extinction. Remember that there is the danger of re-ignition;
  • If the competent authorities request assistance in the aftermath and surveillance, COLLABORATE!

There is also a practical guide for people who have been affected by forest fires in Portugal issued by the Centro e a Direção-Geral da Saúde (DGS) in Portuguese that can be downloaded here.

All prevention and protection information is from official sources

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