Relief & Recovery

Returning home after a fire

Important information to help you recover from bushfires

A handout is available containing information for communities affected by bushfires

Bushfire Recovery Victoria also has a useful fact sheet with key bushfire information including financial assistance, wellbeing and clean-up.

Returning to your property, and starting the clean up 

Houses, sheds and other buildings or structures burnt in a bushfire can leave potential health hazards. These may include fallen or sharp objects, smouldering coals, damaged electrical wires, leaking gas and weakened walls.

When returning to your property, make sure you are aware of the dangers and take steps to protect your health and safety. The Red Cross provides great safety information about returning home after a bushfire and the Better Health Channel has key information on what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.

Wear protective clothing before entering your property after a bushfire. The Department of Health and Human Services can provide Personal Protective Equipment to community members returning to fire affected areas. These kits can be collected from local relief centres or from local councils.

Where possible, try to avoid taking children onto fire-damaged properties. If you do, make sure they remain protected at all times.

If your home has been damaged by the fire or smells of smoke from bushfires, here’s some information on: 

Managing waste removal after bushfires

Hazardous wastes, such as asbestos materials and ash from timber treated with a preservative called Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA), need special care during handling and disposal. Freshly treated CCA timber may pose a health hazard after a fire. For more information about asbestos after a fire click here, and for CCA information, click here.

Prevent further damage to your environment by disposing of bushfire waste responsibly:

  • Call your Bushfire Recovery Victoria case manager on 1800 560 760 for more information on how to handle any waste from your property, home or business. 
  • We recommend you do not inspect burnt building rubble or take any waste to landfill yourself 
  • If you decide to inspect, protect yourself by wetting down the area to reduce dust and wear protective clothing including a P2 mask.
  • At this stage, do not commence clean-up by taking trailer loads of bushfire waste to local landfill facilities, as only appropriate facilities will be able to receive your bushfire waste. 

Asbestos

After a fire, asbestos clumps and some fibres may remain in the ash and may present a risk if disturbed while cleaning up. 

We recommend you do not inspect burnt building rubble. If you do decide to inspect building rubble, you should wet it down to prevent dust. You should also wear personal protective equipment such as a dust mask, gloves and coveralls. The Department of Health and Human Services provides personal protective kits and you can collect these from your local recovery centre or local council.

As part of the 2020 Clean-Up Program, clean up provider Grocon will be prioritising clean up based on a number of factors and program registrations. Where there is a hazard identified on a property, such as asbestos, this will be addressed as a priority as part of property clean up.

If your property is not eligible for this program, it is recommended that you use a licensed asbestos removalist to perform clean-up work. WorkSafe Victoria has a list of licensed asbestos removalists. You can also contact Worksafe on 1800 136 089.

For more information about the disposal of asbestos waste after a fire, see this fact sheet or contact the Environment Protection Authority Victoria on 1300 372 842. For more information about asbestos and your health, visit the Better Health Channel

Hazardous trees

Trees damaged in bushfire can pose a significant safety risk as they may drop branches or fall over. 

Hazardous trees may be identifiable by the following features:

  • Dead and/or decaying tree or major branches
  • Suspected loose or broken branches
  • Evidence of longitudinal cracking
  • Roots lifting or a disturbed root system
  • A significant lean

Removal of hazardous trees on public land

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is responsible for the assessment and treatment of hazardous trees on public land that are impacted by bushfires and pose an immediate safety risk.

Removal of hazardous trees on private property

Fire agencies will assess and treat hazardous trees on private property during the initial bushfire response. Ongoing responsibility for hazardous trees on private property sits with the landholder.

If you are concerned about hazardous trees blocking access to your residence please contact your local council. The local council may be able to arrange the inspection and removal of these trees.

All other trees are the responsibility of the landholder. The landholder should contact an arborist who will inspect the tree and provide a report and advice regarding treatment of the trees.

Bushfires and water tanks

If your area is affected by bushfires, your water source could become contaminated from debris, ash or small dead animals. Here's how to reduce your risk.

Also, you should not source water from a creek that has been affected by bushfire as the water may be contaminated.

Water drawn from deep bores or wells should still be safe to use. If you suspect contamination, use an alternative water supply for drinking and food preparation.

During a fire, large volumes of water, either on its own, or mixed with foams or fire retardants, can be used to put the fire out. Often, this firewater can find its way to local waterways and impact the water quality. This fact sheet contains information about firewater run-off, while this fact sheet provides information about the effects of fire retardants, and how to protect your health. ​

Emergency water for bushfire affected residents

As most property owners have now been able to return to their properties, new applications for tank flush and refill services have now closed.

Bushfire recovery assistance is still available to support households and communities re-establish themselves into the long term.

For more information on maintaining water tanks before, during and after bushfires visit the Better Health Channel.  

Farm recovery

Agriculture Victoria field staff are visiting properties affected by fires across East Gippsland and Upper Murray. Agriculture Victoria is also providing information to farmers about managing livestock, crops, water supplies, soils and pastures affected by emergencies.

After an emergency, an assessment of livestock for injury is essential and livestock producers need to be aware that disease can spread more easily.

Please report any livestock injuries to Agriculture Victoria on 1800 226 226 so that animal health staff can visit and assess the livestock.

Landholders wishing to destroy their impacted livestock need not wait for Agriculture Victoria staff to visit if they are confident of undertaking the task safely and humanely. We do recommend that landholders photograph the animals for insurance claim purposes. 

Landholders needing emergency fodder for livestock should contact the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) on 1300 882 833 between 9am and 5pm or email fodder@vff.org.au.

Anyone with large animals including horses or people who keep livestock as pets is able to contact Victorian Farmers Federation for assistance with feed.

For practical information on managing your farm after a bushfire visit Agriculture Victoria.

Power outages

When power outages occur, people often turn to alternative sources of fuel or electricity. Here's how to stay safe.

Find out what to do during a power outage in the guide to power outages.

Safely turning your power back on

If your property or home has suffered a power disruption, please ensure you follow these safety precautions.

  1. Check that there is no damage to any electrical cables, wiring or other electrical equipment. If you identify any damaged electrical equipment or cables:
    • do not turn on the power
    • do not touch the equipment or cable
    • call a licensed electrician to test and make it safe.
  2. Unplug or turn off all electrical appliances and equipment before switching the power back on.
  3. Turn on the main power switch.
  4. Turn on each circuit breaker one at a time.
    • If you have an RCD, press and hold the test button for 5 seconds. This will turn the power off. The RCD must operate immediately on pressing the test button.
    • Reset the RCD and press the test button a second time. If the RCD operates correctly and turns off the power, reset it and you can begin switching on electrical equipment
    • If the RCD fails the testing, it should be turned off and immediately replaced by a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC).

For more information including safety with solar panels, generators and gas visit: https://esv.vic.gov.au/safety-education/bushfire-and-powerline-safety/bushfire-safety-advice/ 

Your health

Your own health and safety can be at risk after an emergency, visit the Better Health Channel for more information.

Food Safety and personal hygiene

After a fire, smoke and other contaminants from burning materials can potentially affect food. When in doubt throw it out! 

Click the link for more information on food safety and personal hygiene after a fire 

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