Safety and first aid

Cleaning up after a bushfire

  • Protect yourself and wear the right protective clothing if you decide to clean up your property after a bushfire.
  • Do not enter your property until you have been told that it is okay to do so by emergency services or your local government.
  • If a hazard such as asbestos has been identified on your property professional clean-up and other safety precautions must be taken.
  • Only adults should clean-up after a bushfire.

If you decide to go back to your property to assess the damage, retrieve your personal items, or to help with clean-up, it is important to wear the right protective clothing before handling any debris, ash, or other waste.

Know the hazards before you start

The first thing you should do is learn more about the different types of hazards that you might find during clean-up and what you need to do to keep safe.

Wear protective clothing

Before you start to clean-up or walk around your property, make sure you have the right gear.

  • Shoes: strong enclosed shoes or boots to protect your feet from sharp objects or getting burnt by smouldering coals.
  • Clothing: wear long sleeves and loose-fitting trousers/pants. Ideally, wear disposable coveralls (available from the hardware store) that can be thrown away after use.
  • Gloves: heavy-duty work gloves to protect your hands from broken glass, metals and other sharp objects.
  • Eyewear: standard safety glasses to protect your eyes from ash and other debris, or wear sunglasses.
  • Facemask: consider wearing a P2 facemask to prevent you from breathing in ash and fine particles. Ordinary paper dust masks, handkerchiefs or bandannas do not filter out fine ash or dusts and are not very useful in protecting your lungs. Learn more about wearing a P2 face mask .

Extra protection for asbestos or treated timber

It is strongly recommended that you do not enter a property that contains burnt asbestos. However, if you do decide to enter your property it is important you wear the correct personal protective equipment to reduce your risk of breathing in asbestos fibres.

Make sure you read:

Extra protective equipment is also needed if there is fire damaged CCA treated timber

Looking after your health

If you are cleaning up during hot weather, be aware of the risks of heat stress and make sure you have:

  • bottled drinking water
  • food – perishable food should be kept cold in an esky or cooler bag
  • sunscreen
  • a hat.

Cleaning up and handling waste

  • Any items that could be flammable or toxic, such as gas bottles, petrol, drums/bottles of chemical or poison, should be left where they are or separated from other debris. Get advice from local fire safety officers on safely disposing of these items.
  • Wetting down ash and debris with water will help to limit airborne dust before you start cleaning up. Do not use high pressure water sprays as these can stir up ash and dust.
  • Don’t spread ash around your property, particularly if asbestos material or CCA-treated timber was burnt.
  • Building rubble should not be buried. Hazardous materials such as asbestos or chemicals may contaminate soil and groundwater, which may also require controlled clean-up.
  • The demolition of buildings or structures may require a permit from your local government.

Disposing of waste

  • Check with your local government about waste disposal.
Cost and responsibility of clean-up

Large scale bushfires

Small scale bushfires

  • For small scale bushfires the responsibility of clean-up will be with the property owner.

Insurance and renters

  • If you are the property owner, you should call your insurance company as soon as possible to discuss clean-up costs and processes.
  • If you are not insured, you may need to pay and organise for clean-up.
  • If you are renting, you should discuss your situation with your property manager.
  • The demolition of buildings or structures may require a permit from your local government.

More information

Contact Environmental Health Services at your local government (external site).

Last reviewed: 14-12-2023
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.

Questions? Ask your local government environmental health services