Bushfire recovery

Information and factsheets on this page are to help guide residents about what happens if your home or buildings have been damaged in the fire, water quality after bushfires and burnt timber and ash.

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) have conducted assessments of 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

  • asbestos
  • 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 

Returning home after a bushfire

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. Laing O'Rourke has been appointed to lead the clean-up.

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.

Clean-up process

Bushfire clean-up is being undertaken simultaneously across several bushfire-affected communities in NSW. For the latest information on Laing O'Rourke's schedule visit their NSW Bushfire clean-up information hub cleanup.lnbr.com.au or call 1800 007 539.

The EPA is visiting bushfire-affected communities

As clean-up takes place across several bushfire-affected communities in NSW, the EPA is out and about seeing how it is going. We are working with Laing O’Rourke, Public Works Advisory, SafeWork NSW and councils to ensure community safety during clean-up. During the bushfire clean-up, the EPA is visiting bushfire-affected communities to check-in on dust, noise and stormwater management, safe asbestos handling and removal and transport of materials from affected properties. We are also visiting landfills to check-in on safe disposal of asbestos and materials damaged by bushfire. There have been no major compliance concerns during our visits.

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.

Asbestos disposal and handling during bushfire clean-up

All asbestos contaminated material destroyed in the NSW bushfires since 1 July 2019 must be treated as friable asbestos waste. All bushfire generated waste that contains asbestos must only be handled by appropriately trained people and disposed of at a landfill that can lawfully receive this type of waste. The Bushfire Asbestos Waste poster (PDF 51KB) provides information to assist those involved in the bushfire clean-up, including landfill operators, in understanding the requirements for handling and disposing of bushfire asbestos waste.  

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.

Key contacts

  • 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.
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