Safety Guidelines: After a Wildfire

Key points

  • If your home was affected by a wildfire, do not return home until authorities say it is safe.
  • Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones when returning to your home after a fire.

Stay safe after a wildfire

Hazy forest with smoke in the air
Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones when returning to your home after a fire.

Continue to check air quality reports.

Protect yourself from ash.

Wildfires leave behind a lot of ash that can irritate your eyes, nose, or skin and cause coughing and other health effects.

  • Protect yourself against ash when you clean up. Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and shoes and socks to protect your skin. Wear goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Wash off any ash that gets on your skin or in your eyes or mouth as soon as you can.
  • Limit how much ash you breathe in by wearing a NIOSH Approved N95 respirator. A respirator is a mask that fits tightly to your face to filter out ash before you can breathe it in. You must wear a respirator correctly.
  • Pay attention to any health symptoms if you or your children have asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes, or are pregnant. Get to medical help if you need it.

Keep in mind‎

After a wildfire, private wells can be contaminated and unsafe to use for drinking water and other purposes. Learn about potential solutions.

Can children wear respirators?

Children ages 2 years and older can wear respirators and masks. However, NIOSH Approved respirators do not come in suitable sizes for very young children.

  • Choose a respirator or mask that your child can wear properly. If a respirator or mask fits poorly or is uncomfortable, a child might take it off or wear it incorrectly (for example, pulling it down from their nose). This reduces the intended benefits.
  • Choose a size that fits over the child's nose and under the chin but does not impair vision.
  • Follow the user instructions for the respirator or mask. These instructions may show how to make sure it fits properly.

NIOSH Approved respirators and international respirators may be available in smaller sizes that fit children. However, manufacturers typically design them to be used by adults in workplaces. They may not have been tested for broad use in children.


Children should not do any cleanup work.

Drive safely.

  • Be alert for broken traffic lights and missing street signs.
  • Watch out for trash and debris on the road.

Be careful around damaged buildings or structures.

Clean up safely.

Protect your emotional well-being

After a wildfire, many people feel different and strong emotions. Finding helpful ways to cope with these feelings, and getting help when you need it, will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disaster.

Contact SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline‎

Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish). People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.

Resources for kids and teens