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Cleaning up after a fire can be hazardous




Fire damage is seen from the air in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California on October 11, 2017.
Fire damage is seen from the air in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California on October 11, 2017.
ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images

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The Northern California fires have destroyed at least 5,700 structures, many of them homes. Now that the blazes are getting under control, residents and safety workers are turning to the task of clean up. But the fires created piles and piles of ash, and getting rid of them can be dangerous.

Dr. Karen Relucio is Public Health Officer for Napa County. "The toxicity of the ash, it can contain arsenic, mercury, lead, and heavy metals," Relucio told Take Two's A Martinez. "There's a lot of carcinogens in the ash, so looking further out, they may suffer as a consequence of the long-term effects of that type of exposure."

Although Relucio strongly advises residents who have lost their homes to stay away from their burned properties, she understands the prospect of finding items of sentimental value will inevitably draw people back to their homes. In that case, Relucio offers this advice:

"Wear protection such as an N95 respirator, eye protection, gloves like construction gloves, a long sleeve shirt, long sleeve pants and construction boots with a steel toe."

Why so much gear? Well, it's not just for the harmful chemicals you might be exposed to. It's also for the sharp objects and debris that might be present on the property.

To hear more about the health and environmental risks associated with fire clean up, click the blue play button above.