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Essentials tips for wildfire recovery

clean-up-460-(1).jpgOver the next days and weeks, thousands of evacuees from wildfires in British Columbia will be returning to their home once evacuation orders are liften and the Red Cross will be there to assist them all through recovery.

Following an evacuation, there are a number of practical and emotional things that need to be considered before returning home. Upon re-entry, we invite evacuees to download or get a copy of the Red Cross Guide to Fire Recovery at the nearest re-entry centre.

Here’s a checklist of steps to follow.

Follow the directives

  • Do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe.
  • Visit the nearest re-entry centre. Upon re-entry the Red Cross and the Province of B.C. will provide you with $300 per household in direct financial assistance, after the Fire Clean-Up Kit (cleaner, gloves, bucket, garbage bags, etc.) and additional information specific to your community.

Be safe when you re-enter your house

  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety—warn family and neighbours to keep clear of the pits also.
  • Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn your pets’ paws or hooves.
  • Do not ever use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • Do not use appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse-breaker panels until a qualified electrician has checked them.
  • Some fridges and freezers may have sustained damage as a result of the prolonged power outage and the resulting food spoilage but others can be fine. Please verify with your insurer. Here’s a guide from the Insurance Bureau of Canada
  •  Work out what you need to do first. Take small steps at a time: check the status of your power, water, gas, phone, and sewer. You may need to call utility services for assistance.

Clean-up time

If you are insured, contact your insurance company. Your policy may cover house cleaning by a restoration specialist.

  • Wear leather gloves and heavy soled shoes to protect hands and feet.
    Follow public health guidance on safe clean-up of fire ash and safe use of face masks.
  • Wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Vacuum all surfaces and remove residual mud and soil from furniture and dry it off.
  • Clothes: Use your washer and dryer only once a qualified electrician has checked them. Scrape all heavy dirt from clothes, rinse and wash several times with detergent and dry immediately to prevent mould from forming.


  • Discard any food, cosmetics and toiletries that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot (including food in glass jars and metal cans).
  • Cleaning products, paint, batteries and damaged fuel containers need to be disposed of properly to avoid risk.

Take an inventory

You will need to provide a list of lost or damaged items as part of your insurance claim. If possible, take close-up photos or video footage of damaged, rooms, furnishings and property.

Last but not least: Don’t forget yourself and your loved ones in the process!

We know that your home is not
 just a house and it holds memories and aspirations for the future. Acknowledging your loss and taking time to grieve is an important step.

  • Monitor how you and your loved ones are reacting to the disaster.
    It is important to know the difference between an expected reaction to a stressful or potentially traumatic event and the signs that indicate you should seek additional assistance.
  • Children’s reactions to disasters and their aftermath are strongly influenced by how their parents and other caregivers cope during and after the events. Here are some useful tips to help children cope with disaster recovery.
  • Once you are feeling settled, 
reach out to your neighbours. 
It is important to re-establish relationships and be a helping hand to one another. 
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