Don’t use a leaf blower to clear your bushes or sidewalks of ash. We spoke with an expert about this and other best practices as communities begin to clean up from recent fires.
Ash, especially the tiny particles from burned homes or other manmade items, can contribute to an array of health problems. Brooke Edmunds is with OSU Extension. She recommends misting affected areas with water, then gently sweeping. “Walkways, sidewalks, your mailbox, garbage cans. Any of those high traffic areas, that’s where I’d recommend getting started to try to clear some of that ash away." said Edmunds. "And this is, one so you don’t create those small clouds of ash and breathe them in, you’re also not then tracking that back into your house.”
Edmunds said not to wash ash into a storm drain, where it can enter the water supply, but spread it on lawns or gardens which are a natural filter. Wear a good mask and clothes that protect your lungs and exposed skin. She suggested, as the weather improves, to inspect and clean windowsills and doorways before opening up the house.
Only use a vacuum if your machine has a HEPA filter. Without it, small particles will escape back into the air. Edmunds said to wait until the air quality is good to start cleaning ash. If we get rain, it will be very helpful.
Edmunds said it's safe to eat garden vegetables that are ash-covered. Be sure to rinse them very well, perhaps first outdoors and again in the kitchen.
More information is available on the OSU extension website.