Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District

Asbestos and Fire Cleanup−Precautions

When houses and buildings burn, asbestos fibers can become airborne, creating a potentially hazardous situation.

  • Handling materials that contain asbestos can be hazardous to your health.

  • Typically cleanup of asbestos-containing materials is done by trained professionals with proper safety equipment.

  • Download lists (PDF files) of certified Asbestos Consultants, and certified Asbestos Contractors, and see this page for additional information. 

Many buildings constructed before 1981 have asbestos-containing materials. Buildings constructed after 1981 will have less of these materials, however, burning of even relatively smaller amounts of these materials may release asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and a respiratory hazard.

The only way to determine if asbestos is present in a burned-out area is to have a certified asbestos consultant test the material. While homeowners can conduct their own cleanups, they often choose to have suspected or known asbestos-containing materials removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. When professionals clean up asbestos-containing materials, the following safe handling practices are observed.

  • Avoid mixing of suspected asbestos-containing materials with other debris. 

  • Where asbestos-containing materials are suspected to be mixed with debris, ALL debris is assumed to be contaminated and should be adequately wetted, double-bagged in thick plastic sheeting, recorded on a manifest and disposed of as asbestos-containing waste. 

  •  A survey by a certified asbestos consultant and/or site technician may be conducted to separate asbestos materials from other debris in order to reduce the amount of debris that needs to be disposed of as asbestos-containing waste, or to clear a site as non-hazardous. 

  • The ONLY accepted test for bulk suspected asbestos-containing materials is Polarized Light Microscopy; testing is typically done to prove that there is NOT asbestos in the material.

  • Adequate wetting is required for removal and demolition for all asbestos-containing material.

  • For wetting small areas, use a spray dispenser. For larger areas, use a water hose with a nozzle for a fine, low-pressure spray or mist.  When available, use water mixed with a wetting agent or surfactant. 

  • Wetting down vehicles prior to leaving the property is advised. Respiratory protection and suitable Tyvek-style clothing is advised during inspection of dry burn sites. Decontamination of the clothing and breathing apparatus is advised at the end of the inspection.  Disposable Tyvek suits should be disposed of as hazardous waste. 

  • Where asbestos-containing materials are known or assumed to be present, the debris should be stabilized by wetting and covered with plastic sheeting until it is scheduled to be removed.  Wind-blown dry materials will release hazardous asbestos fibers.  

  • Asbestos-containing materials must be disposed of at a landfill approved to receive asbestos. 

See this page for additional information on asbestos, and asbestos contractors.