Important numbers

  • For medical advice contact your doctor or the 24-hour healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222.
  • For medical emergencies call Triple Zero 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department if it is safe to do so.
  • For 24-hour mental health support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or 13YARN, run by Aboriginal people, on 13 92 76.
  • For specialist mental health services call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511. A mental health professional will answer your call about mental health concerns for you or someone you are concerned about, including children, teens, adults and older people.
  • For financial assistance to accommodation advice call Service NSW customer care on 13 77 88.
  • For bushfire information call the Rural Fire Service on 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737).
  • For an interpreter, contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) National on 131 450. This service is free and confidential.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Returning home after a bushfire needs to be done safely as houses, sheds and other structures burnt in a bushfire can leave potential health hazards.

Steps to return home safely​

  • Ask your local emergency services if it is safe to return to your property. Do not enter until you have been told it is safe.

    If you can enter, limit the time spend at a fire-damaged property for your health and safety. Avoid taking children with you, but if you need to, make sure they follow the tips below on staying protected​.​

  • If you will be at your property for an extended period, bring with you:

    • bottled drinking water
    • food (perishable food should be kept cool in an esky or cooler bag)
    • sunscreen
    • a hat

    Take and wear protective clothing including:

    • ​sturdy footwear and heavy-duty work gloves
    • disposable coveralls (with long sleeves and trousers)
    • P2/N95 face masks

    You can buy protective coveralls, gloves and face masks from your local hardware and workplace supply stores.

    When it’s time to leave the property:

    • pack all protective clothing items into a garbage bag
    • wash your hands after removing your protective clothing
    • clean your shoes before wearing them again.​​

  • Everyday items may no longer be safe to use after a bushfire. Before you touch anything, stop and follow the advice below.


    Throw out any food that has been fire-damaged or affected by heat. This includes all perishable and non-perishable foods (for example, cans or packaged foods). Power outages can leave perishable foods that may have been refrigerated unsafe to eat. Visit NSW Food Authority for more information.


    Take any medicine that has or may have been fire-damaged or affected by heat to your local pharmacy who will arrange for its proper disposal.

    Learn more about returning expired and unwanted medicine.

    For replacement medicine, call your doctor and ask them to send your prescription to your local pharmacy. If you can’t contact your doctor, go to a local pharmacy to ask for an emergency supply of your regular medicines. You can also call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for advice.

    Unsafe materials

    Be aware of unsafe materials at your property after a fire, including:

    • Ash and timber:
      It may be unsafe to spread or disturb ash around your property, particularly if copper chrome arsenate (CCA)-treated timber was burnt. CCA is used to preserve wood intended for outdoor use. If you don't know, assume burnt timber is treated with CCA. Wear personal protective equipment (gloves and dust mask) to clean up ash, double-bag it and take it to a licensed landfill site.
    • Asbestos:
      Damaged materials containing asbestos in your home or other structures may now be harmful. Do not touch these materials and seek assistance of a licensed asbestos professional. Find out more on Asbestos in NSW.
    • Other materials:
      • dust
      • garden or farm chemicals
      • Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders
      • metal and other residues from burnt household appliances
      • other general chemicals (for example, cleaning products).

    Hazard Identification Notice

    If your property has a 'Hazard Identification Notice' placed, call Public Works Advisory on 1800 885 539. They will be able to advise on what testing has been undertaken and what you need to do. If you are insured, it is best to contact your insurer as early as possible for advice.

    Rainwater tanks and drinking water

    Your rainwater tank may be affected by windblown ash, debris, dead animals or fire retardants. Do not drink the water or give it to animals if it tastes, smells or looks unusual.

    If you think your water has been contaminated:

    • use a different safe water supply, such as bottled water, for drinking, preparing food or ice, and cleaning teeth until your tank can be cleaned and refilled
    • if no other drinking water is available, rainwater can be disinfected by boiling. If you can’t boil the water, unscented household bleach (containing 4–5% available chlorine) may be used. Add 4 drops of bleach to 1 litre of water, mix well, and leave it for 30 minutes before use.

    For advice on what else you need to do, such as getting a contaminated tank cleaned and refilled, call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

    Find more information on rainwater tanks and bushfires.

    Learn more on fire retardants and private water sources.

    Occasionally fires affect drinking water quality. Check for boil water notices in your area and learn what to do if a boil water alert is in place.

    Wastewater systems

    Wastewater systems, such as septic tanks and their land application systems (sprinklers and below ground drippers), can be damaged during a bushfire.

    If you think your septic tank has been damaged:

    • avoid driving or walking over it
    • contact a licensed plumber to have it assessed
    • reduce water use as much as possible until the system is inspected and repaired by:
      • flushing the toilet less often
      • taking shorter showers or shower elsewhere
      • doing laundry and dishwashing less often.

    For more advice, contact your local council or local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

    Find more information on bushfires and on-site wastewater systems.

    Swimming pools

    A swimming pool may have debris in it such as ash after a bushfire. This can affect the chemical balance of the water, making it unsafe to use.

    If you have a pool:

    • repair any damaged fencing to keep people and animals out of the pool area
    • get any damaged electrical equipment checked by an electrician
    • remove debris and ash from the pool and clean out the skimmer and pump baskets
    • turn the pump on to remove remaining ash and leaves
    • clean out your filter by following your supplier’s instructions
    • test the chlorine and pH of the water. You likely will need to adjust these levels, or apply a shock dose of chlorine or super chlorination because of the change to the water’s chemistry.
    • cover your pool to stop mosquitos from breeding in the water.

    If the pool’s water quality is poor and can’t be restored, you may need to empty, clean and refill it. Before doing this, contact your local council or local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for advice.

    Find more information on swimming pools and bushfires.

  • It is completely normal to experience a range of emotions after a bushfire. These may happen immediately, but sometimes much later.

    Looking after your mental health is more important than ever after a bushfire. There are small things you can do to regain some control and cope during this tough time, such as connecting with others, sticking to a routine, and doing things that help you to relax. Refer to
    managing your mental health during and after a bushfire.​


Current as at: Thursday 26 October 2023
Contact page owner: Environmental Health