Although contained, the Butte Fire in California still threatens the lives of individuals returning to their homes--or what is left of their homes. While the threat might not pose as immediate of a threat to individuals as the flames of a fire, the debris left behind could contain toxic substances that can affect their health in the years to come.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stated that hazards still in the area "may include asbestos, heavy metals, by-products of plastic combustion, and various other chemicals." If inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers can cause serious respiratory conditions and fatal cancers.
Asbestos is assumed to be present in homes built before 1990. Construction materials such as drywall, piping insulation, vinyl floor tiles, and more have all been known to contain the substance in the past. A house fire can release asbestos fibers into the air for firefighters to inhale or ingest. If disturbed within debris from a fire, clean up crews and families are also at risk for exposure.
If you are a Butte Fire victim returning to your property after the tragedy, do not hesitate to work with a professional to test for asbestos and/or help you properly remove it. Asbestos can lead to serious illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.