BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is warning the public of the potential health risks associated with fire debris from the Marshall Fire.

According to CDPHE, Boulder County is coordinating the removal of the debris generated from the fire at no cost to residents. Details will be announced once the plan is finalized.

Fire debris can be toxic

As residents anxiously await the return to their homes to assess the damage, CDPHE is alerting residents to avoid or minimize contact with fire debris.

The debris can contain:

  • Tiny particles of dust, dirt, and soot that can become airborne and inhaled
  • Toxic amounts of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmiun, copper, lead and mercury
  • Asbestos
  • Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, cleaning products, pesticides, and herbicides

The toxic debris is known to cause irritation to the skin, nose and throat, and certain substances such as asbestos and cadmium can cause cancer.

How to protect yourself from hazards after a fire

Residents who return to their homes and search through the debris should wear the proper protective gear and take caution:

  • Wear gloves, long shirts and pants and safety eyewear
  • A mask rated N-95 is reccomended to block ash particles
  • Avoid kicking up debris and ash
  • Change shoes and clothing as soon as you are off-site to avoid contamination in your car and home
  • Children should never be exposed to fire ash and debris

Boulder County is reminding residents to stay out of the area until local officials have allowed re-entry into the neighborhood. Residents can check the public information map for area-specific openings.