What to do after a wildfire When you’re able to return home after a forest fire, use these tips to help recover and stay safe. In the aftermath of a wildfire If you end up in the path of a wildfire, the damage can be devastating, no matter how well you prepared ahead of time. When local authorities say it’s safe to return home, here are some tips to help get you back on your feet. Before you return home Send text messages or use social media to contact friends and family – make calls only in an emergency since phone lines are often busy after a forest fire. Wait for the all-clear from local authorities. Gather supplies like work gloves, sturdy shoes or boots, dust masks, goggles, flashlights, bottled water, garbage bags, and a first aid kit. Returning home and checking for damage Walk around outside first, if you notice downed power lines or a gas smell, call the professionals before going in. The ground can contain heat pockets that could burn you or spark another fire, so avoid hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris, and live embers. Turn off the main power breaker if it’s safe to do so. Wet down debris and wear a dust mask to help keep you from breathing in contaminates. Open your windows and doors to help air your home out. Watch for sagging floors and avoid putting weight on them. Don’t drink the tap water until authorities tell you it’s safe. Throw out any medication, food, or drinks that were exposed to heat, ash, smoke, or chemicals. Avoid touching soot, it smears easily. Follow all proper generator safety tips. Take pictures of your home’s damage, inside and out. Contact your insurance agent or your company to start your claims process. Cleaning up and moving forward As you work to return home and recover, the American Red Cross has good information on how to clean up after a wildfire. And as you rebuild, consider durable roofing materials and other ways to protect your home in the future.