For more advice on all NSW Government services available for people and businesses, visit www.service.nsw.gov.au
If your home or buildings have been damaged in the fire
NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW, Public Works Advisory and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) conduct assessments of the fire impacted properties to identify hazards you need to be aware of so you can take the proper action to protect yourself.
What we look for
Houses, sheds and other buildings damaged in a bushfire can leave potential health and safety hazards in the remaining debris and ash.
Hazardous household materials that may be present
- chemicals – household, cleaning, garden and farm chemicals
- ash from timbers treated with chemicals (e.g. copper-chrome-arsenate)
- solar panels
- damaged gas bottles
- ash and dust
- unsafe building structures
- electrical hazards or live wires
- missing fencing panels around pools
How is a building impact assessment undertaken?
Building impact assessments are undertaken for your protection and that of your family and neighbours.
First, the Rural Fire Service does an initial assessment to record the level of damage to houses, sheds and other outbuildings. This information is used to understand the impact of the fire and is provided to councils and recovery agencies.
Next, a multi-agency team that includes Fire and Rescue NSW, Public Works Advisory and the EPA, councils and other relevant agencies makes a second assessment of destroyed and damaged buildings. This team looks for potential hazards such as asbestos contaminated materials.
If asbestos is suspected or identified, a licensed asbestos assessor takes samples for testing to confirm if asbestos is present. If there is a risk of airborne fibres, the site is sprayed with a non-toxic, coloured glue. This provides a temporary seal to reduce the risk. You can check asbestos sampling results with Laing O’Rourke on firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 007 539. Don’t go into areas affected by asbestos. Clean-up and removal must be undertaken by a licensed asbestos removalist. The factsheet Asbestos awareness during bushfire (PDF 162KB) provides detailed information for the community on asbestos clean-up.
If an assessment team identifies potential hazards it will leave a Hazard Identification Notice at the property.
Other information collected at this stage includes the types of waste (metal, green waste, etc.) present. It is given to government agencies involved in recovery activities.
When will my buildings be assessed?
NSW Rural Fire Service teams conduct initial assessments immediately after the fire, as soon as it is safe to do so. Multi-agency teams conduct detailed assessments as soon as possible in the following weeks. Because many properties must be assessed, yours may not be done immediately.
Returning home after a bushfire
When can I return home?
Access to your street or property may be restricted until emergency services and other agencies address safety issues such as power lines and fallen trees.
You can find out the status of your property by contacting Service NSW on 13 77 88.
When you return to your property, be aware there may be hazards present, even if there is no Hazard Identification Notice.
Starting the clean-up process
When returning to your property after a bushfire, be aware of these factors to protect your health:
- clean-up cannot start until all hazards on a site have been managed
- if asbestos is suspected, it is recommended you do not enter the property
- wear a P2 face mask and protective clothing
- electrical hazards such as live power lines down or active solar panels
- buildings and other structures may be unstable to enter or walk over
- sewerage services may be disrupted, causing health risks
- hot, smouldering coals and other hazardous materials may be hidden under rubble
- building rubble must not be buried as it may contain hazardous materials
- do not spread ash around your property, particularly where asbestos materials are present, or copper-chrome-arsenate-treated timber was burnt
- moisten ash with water to minimise dust but don’t use high-pressure water sprays.
Who will do the clean-up?
The NSW Government and the Commonwealth are jointly covering the clean-up cost of insured and uninsured residential and eligible commercial (small business and primary production) properties destroyed in the NSW bushfires since 1 July 2019.
Work will include
- removal of known hazardous materials, including asbestos
- removal of materials destroyed by bushfire and hazardous trees near the destroyed or damaged primary residence or place of business
- removal of damaged driveways that could impact on the safety of the clean-up
- removal of concrete slab foundations (with the consent of the building owners)
Register for clean-up
To register for the bushfire recovery clean-up program call Service NSW on 13 77 88 or go to https://www.service.nsw.gov.au
It is not advisable to do any major clean-up works yourself as professional contractors will be engaged to do this work.
All waste should be transported and disposed of according to the NSW legal requirements, of which professional contractors are aware.
If you are undertaking minor clean-up works yourself, please check with your council or the EPA about the waste you are moving, and ensure you are taking all recommended health precautions.
Asbestos awareness during bushfire clean-up
Buildings and other structures damaged in a bushfire leave health and safety hazards in the remaining debris and ash. If a fire-damaged building was built before 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos. The factsheet Asbestos awareness during bushfire (PDF 162KB) provides detailed information for the community on asbestos clean-up.
Interstate disposal of asbestos waste from bushfires to Queensland
All bushfire-generated waste that contains asbestos must be tracked if it is being transported to Queensland for disposal. The factsheet Interstate disposal of asbestos waste from bushfires to Queensland (PDF 159KB) provides information on the streamlined process for tracking bushfire-generated waste containing asbestos from NSW to Queensland.
Bushfire impacts on water quality
Bushfires can impact the quality of our waterways by increasing the amount of poor-quality runoff entering our waterways during significant rain events. This runoff can have a range of impacts on water quality including depleted dissolved oxygen levels, increased sedimentation, algal blooms and fish kills. The factsheet Bushfire impacts on water quality (PDF 138KB) provides information on the various contaminants that can affect water quality after a bushfire and what can be done to minimise these impacts.
Burnt treated timber and ash
Copper chrome arsenate (CCA) is a wood preservative used to protect wood from rotting, fungi and insects. Burnt CCA-treated timber will contain arsenic. The factsheet Copper-chrome-arsenate (CCA) – burnt timber and ash (PDF 105KB) provides information on safe disposal of CCA-treated timber and ash and steps you can take to protect your health.
- Service NSW – to register for the bushfire recovery clean-up program call 13 77 88, or go to www.service.nsw.gov.au. Service NSW also has other useful information.
- Asbestos – safe handling and removal www.safework.nsw.gov.au.
- Waste disposal – information about transport and disposal of hazardous materials, www.epa.nsw.gov.au.
- Recovery – your local council will lead the recovery effort. See its website for information.