SolanoCountyRecovers: The official website for wildfire response and recovery.

Returning to your Property

Solano County appreciates your patience while we worked to make burnt areas accessible for return. We know this has been a traumatic experiences for you and that you’ve been eager to return to your property. For your safety, as you drive to your property, please be aware of road hazards, follow posted signs, and respect barricades. If your home was destroyed, damaged, or you live near homes that burned, please be aware of hot spots that can flare up without warning, hazardous materials, and structural damage on your property that could pose serious threats to your health and safety.

There is so much to do when you first return home after a disaster, it can be overwhelming. But if you make a plan, work carefully, and keep yourself safe and healthy, you will make progress. Here are some tips for getting started, along with some possible problems to watch out for.

Be safe. Be smart. Be patient.

Be Proactive about Stress

This is a time of emotional and physical stress. Look after yourself and your family during cleanup and repairs.

  • Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do one job at a time.
  • Rest often and remember to eat.
  • Even when there is rebuilding or cleanup to be done, playtime with children is time well spent.

Get the Essentials

When you shop or ask for clothing or personal items from relief workers, imagine that you’re preparing for a camping trip.

  • Underwear (or diapers for the baby)
  • Shoes and socks
  • Pajamas
  • Personal care items like toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, deodorant
  • Towels and washcloths

Returning After a Wildfire

Take photographs of the damage. You may need these to substantiate insurance claims later.

  • Check for smoke and embers throughout the home, including the attic. Report damage to Solano County Building Division (707) 784-6765 or contact PG&E anytime at (800) 743-5000.
  • Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage. Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside. Ask a building inspector or contractor to check the structure before you enter.
  • Beware of sharp objects such as nails, glass, metal, etc.
  • If the door is jammed, don’t force it open – it may be providing support to the rest of your home. Find another way to get inside.
  • Damaged locks should be taken apart and wiped with oil. If locks can’t be removed, squirt machine oil through a bolt opening or keyhole, and work the knob to distribute the oil. Hinges should also be thoroughly cleaned and oiled.
  • Smell gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately. Report the gas smell to the fire department.
  • Beware of animals, such as rodents, snakes, spiders and insects, that may have entered your home. Also, beware of dead of injured wildlife or bees disturbed by the fire. As you inspect your home, tap loudly and often on the floor with a stick to give notice that you are there.
  • Damaged objects, such as furniture or stairs, may be unstable. Be very cautious when moving near them. Avoid holding, pushing or leaning against damaged building parts.
  • Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand well away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.
  • Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don’t walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.
  • If the weather is dry, open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
  • If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or serve as alternate lighting.
  • Disconnect and check all appliances for water damage before using them.
  • Make temporary repairs such as covering holes, bracing walls, and removing debris. Save all receipts.
  • Report damage to Solano County Building Division (707) 784-6765 or contact PG&E anytime at (800) 743-5000.
  • If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
  • If there is a pool of water on the floor between you and the fuse box or circuit breaker panel, use a dry wooden stick to try to reach to turn off the main fuse or breaker, but do not step or stand in water to do that. If you cannot reach the fuse box or breaker panel, call a qualified electrician for assistance.
  • Inspect the panel box for any breakers that may have tripped. A tripped breaker may indicate damaged wiring inside your home. Do not turn them on. Call an electrician.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect fuses. Replace broken fuses with exactly the same amperage rating and never use an object such as a coin or strip of metal to bypass the protection that fuses provide.
  • If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using sinks, showers or toilets and call a plumber.
  • If water pipes are damaged, turn off the water at the main valve. Call a plumber for assistance.
  • If you have a heating oil tank system, turn off all valves and contact a professional specializing in maintenance of such equipment before using it again.
  • Hazardous Materials such as household cleaning products, paint, batteries, gasoline, contaminated fuel, and damaged fuel containers need to be safely handled to protect the environment and human health. Hazardous materials such as household cleaning products, paint, batteries, gasoline, contaminated fuel, and damaged fuel containers need to be safely handled to protect the environment and human health. For assistance with hazardous materials spills or cleanups, contact Solano County’s Department of Resource Management, Hazardous Materials Division (707) 784-6765. For proper household hazardous waste disposal, contact Recology Vacaville Solano (707) 448-2945.
  • Throw away food, beverages and medicine exposed to heat, smoke or soot. Food that was in the freezer can be used if it still has ice crystals on it. If not, discard it

Household Hazardous Waste examples:

AerosolsCooking OilPesticides
AntifreezeDisinfectantsPool Chemicals
Auto BatteriesFertilizersPropane Cylinders (BBQ)
Auto FluidsFuelsSolvents
Batteries (household)Motor Oil / FiltersStains / Varnishes
CleanersPaint (Latex / Oil-Based)Wood Preservatives

  • Stay out of any building that has water around it.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines. Report them immediately to the power company.
  • Contact your insurance agent. Do not discard damaged goods until an inventory has been taken. Save receipts for money spent relating to fire loss. Your insurance agent may provide immediate help with living expenses until you are able to return home and may offer assistance for repairs.
  • Take pictures of any damage.

• A damaged septic system may lead to surfacing sewage or other discharges of wastewater and may create unsanitary conditions and attract flies or other vectors of disease. Check for any damage to the septic system, including damage to the electrical wiring to any pumps or control box – do NOT handle wiring that has been fire damaged. Cover any openings with plywood. Avoid contact with sewage – do not allow pets or animals to come into contact with sewage. Contact a licensed contractor to determine the extent of the damage and what must be done to repair the septic system. Contact Solano County Environmental Health for more information at (707) 784-6765

• Ash is hazardous to your health. Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety. Ash pits are holes full of hot ashes, created by burned trees and stumps. Falling into ash pits or landing in them with your hands or feet can cause serious burns. Warn your family and neighbors to keep clear of these pits. Sifting through fire debris is not recommended but if you choose to do so, please use extreme caution and use a face mask, spray debris with a fine mist of water to minimize health impacts from breathing dust particles. Do not use leaf blowers or wash the ash. Contact Solano County Environmental Health at (707)784-6765 about removal.

• Do not rely on appearance or odor to determine if food will make you sick. Spoilage is often difficult, if not impossible, to detect. Never taste suspect meats, poultry, or other foods. If in doubt, throw it out!

DISCARD the following foods if kept more than two (2) hours above 40° F:
• Meats: raw or cooked meats, poultry, seafood, meat topped pizza, and lunch meats
• Dairy: milk/cream, yogurt, soft cheese, custard, cream filled pastries
• Other: open jars of baby food/infant formula, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, salad dressing and cooked vegetables, casseroles, stews or soups

• If you have a propane tank system, contact your propane supplier, turn off valves on the system, and leave valves closed until the supplier inspects your system. Tanks, brass and copper fittings and lines may have been damaged from the heat and be unsafe. If fire burned the tank, the pressure relief valve probably opened and released the contents. Check for gas leaks starting at the water heater. If you smell gas, get everyone out of the area and house; if safe to do so turn off the main gas valve, open windows and contact the gas utility or propane company. Small 5 gallon propane tanks (BBQ propane tanks) affected by the fire may be returned to propane seller or can be recycled at a metal recycling facility.

It is important that you take measures to ensure your personal protection as you may be exposed to potential health risks from hazardous material, debris, and ash:
• Wear protective glasses or goggles to protect your eyes
• Use a two-strap, dust particulate mask with a nose clip such as N-95; or a protective face covering; or a damp cloth to cover your nose and mouth
• Wear long sleeved shirt and long pants to protect your skin
• Wear boots with thick (lug) soles that cannot be punctured and can withstand high temperatures; avoid tennis/running shoes and do not wear sandals or other open-toed shoes
• Wear leather gloves to protect hands from sharp objects
• Wear rubber gloves when working with outhouse remnants, plumbing fixtures, sewer piping and chemicals (including household chemicals)

Opened roadways may be clear but travel with caution due to increased levels of ongoing cleanup and repair activities. Be on high alert at all times and aware of the following:
• Speed limits are temporarily reduced to 25 mph and posted on orange signs
• Street lights may be non-operational
• Roadway striping may be absent so make sure you can see the edge of the road
• Be aware of low hanging power lines and wires
• Downed power poles and trees are lying on the shoulder of the road
• Non-functioning, burnt guard rails are marked by cones and barricades
• Be aware of active road crews from Solano County and PG&E
• Be cautious when approaching intersections due to high levels of cleanup and repair activities
• Site visibility may be limited due to brush piles, equipment and other obstructions

  •  Burned trees may have lost stability and fall due to fire damage; visually check stability. Winds are normally responsible for toppling weakened trees. Wind patterns in your area may have changed due to loss of adjacent tree cover. Look for burns on the tree trunk. If the bark on the trunk has been burned off or scorched by very high temperatures completely around the circumference, the tree will not survive. Where fire has burnt deep into the trunk, the tree should be considered unstable.Look for burnt roots by probing the ground with a rod around the base of the tree and several feet away from the base. Roots are generally six to eight inches below the surface. If the roots have been burned, you should consider this tree very unstable, and it may be toppled by wind.

     

Do not use contaminated water to make ice, brush your teeth or wash dishes.

If you have a private well:

There are number of things to keep in mind if you have had fire damage that compromised your well: When it is safe to do so you can check for:

✔ Damaged and melted or exposed electrical wiring
✔ Damaged and melted PVC casing, liner, or pipe
✔ Damaged well houses and pressure tanks
✔ Debris, ash, sediment, entering uncovered wells

Do the Following:
✔ Barricade / flag the area around the area of the well as a warning
✔ Contact a licensed and bonded well driller or a pump installer to determine the extent of damage and what must be done to repair or destroy the well
✔ If you think the fire damaged your water supply, bring water back with you when you return home.

Do Not
✔ Handle wiring that has been damaged by fire
✔ Do not touch the casing

Wells must be maintained to prevent health hazards. Take steps to ensure your water is safe to drink after an emergency.

Should you be in a position whereby it is necessary to continue to drink water from the suspect water supply, you must treat the water by one of the following methods:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for a minimum of three (3) to five (5) minutes. If unsure as to effectiveness of disinfection, you may want to boil water up to ten (10) minutes.
  • Disinfect with unscented household chlorine bleach. Use two (2) drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water or eight (8) drops per gallon. For cloudy water, first strain through a clean cloth, then add four (4) drops of chlorine to each quart, or sixteen (16) drops to each gallon. Stir or shake the water after the chlorine has been added and let stand for thirty (30) minutes before consuming.

Disinfection of Private Domestic Water Wells

Disinfection of a well is recommended to eliminate disease causing organisms. A well should be disinfected following a repair, maintenance or replacement of the pump or if the power has been off for an appreciable period possibly causing the pressure tank to lose pressure and the distribution system to back siphon into the well causing possible contamination. Disinfection generally involves five (5) steps:

Remove the threaded inspection plug from the cap on top of the well. Place a funnel in this entry port and pour one (1) to three (3) gallons of domestic 5.25% chlorine bleach into the well. Should you wish to be more precise in this effort, introduce one gallon of bleach per 1000 gallons of water. You may calculate this as follows:

a) Determine the amount of water in the well using the following formula:
TOTAL WELL DEPTH – STANDING WATER LEVEL = FEET
________________ – ____________________ = ____

b) Take the gallons per foot (gpf) using the chart below times the number of feet to determine capacity.
WATER IN WELL x GALLON PER FOOT = TOTAL GALLONS
___________ ft x gpf ___________ = _____________

4″ Well has .65 gallons per foot
5″ Well has 1.04 gallons per foot
6″ Well has 1.47 gallons per foot
7″ Well has 2.00 gallons per foot
8″ Well has 2.61 gallons per foot

c) Determine the amount of chlorine needed to disinfect the well. Remember, you need use only one gallon of .25% bleach per thousand gallons of water!

✔ Open all faucets until the odor of chlorine is detected at water outlets, including faucets or fittings, sprinklers, drip lines, irrigation lines, etc.
✔ Close all outlets and allow water to remain in all water lines and well, preferably overnight or longer if possible. Be sure to limit water usage during these critical hours.
✔ The next day or longer open all outlets until the odor of all chlorine has disappeared. The water supply should then be free of all chlorine.
✔ Have the water sampled by a state certified laboratory for bacteriological quality.

Note: Disposal of chlorinated water should be done away from trees, shrubs, lawns, ponds and streams. It is important to avoid discharging highly chlorinated water in large volumes into septic tank systems.

Should water be in scarce supply, alternative temporary sources may include hot water tanks, toilet tanks (if no chemical disinfectant is used), canned fruit and vegetable juices and liquid from other canned goods.

Once again, be sure to disinfect all suspect sources.

 

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