Wednesday, October 17 , 2018, 2:58 pm | Fair 78º


County Advises Avoiding Ash Cleanup, Use of Leaf Blowers During Thomas Fire

Please be aware that the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Air Pollution Control District are strongly recommending no use of leaf blowers until further notice, and no ash cleanup at residential and commercial properties should occur until this health notice is changed.

If any landscaping or gardening activity is necessary, it is essential to make sure all personnel are wearing properly fitting N-95 masks. They can be obtained free of charge from the Public Health Department at 805.681.5100. Spanish speakers will be available.

We do not advise ash cleanup while ash is still falling and the situation is unpredictable. Wait until conditions improve. Do not use leaf blowers under any circumstances. Should ash cleanup be absolutely necessary, the following is recommended for safe cleanup:

» Avoid skin contact with ash. Ash from burned homes and other items will likely contain metals, chemicals and potentially asbestos, items that may be considered toxic if breathed in or touched with wet skin. If you do get ash on your skin, wash it off immediately. Some wet ash can cause chemical burns.

» Inhaled ash may be irritating to the nose, throat and lungs. In order to avoid possible health problems, the following steps are recommended.

» Use protective wear. Wear a tight-fitting N-95 respirator mask, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when cleaning up ash. No one with heart or lung conditions should handle ash cleanup.

» Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Avoid sweeping it up dry. Use water and a wet cloth or mop to clean items and surfaces.

Alternatives to leaf blowers:

» Sweep gently with a push broom, then hose lightly with water. Take care to conserve water. Ash can be bagged and put into trash cans.

» Use a shop vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate filter (HEPA) and a disposable filter bag.

If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke or soot, consult your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, headaches and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.


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