Sonoma County officials recommend the following steps for people returning to their homes in areas that were evacuated:
Clean and sanitize the surfaces of household objects in a four-step process. Wash with soap and hot, clean water; rinse with clean water; sanitize by immersing for one minute in a solution of one cup of unscented household bleach in five gallons of clean water; allow to air dry.
Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner; wear rubber or other nonporous boots, gloves and eye protection; try not to breathe cleaning product fumes. (If cleaning indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate.)
Use extreme caution in trying to save food from a fire. Food in cans or jars may appear to be safe but can be spoiled if exposed to heat or fumes.
Any unpackaged food or food stored in permeable packaging (cardboard, plastic wrap, etc.) should be thrown away. Discard any raw foods stored outside the refrigerator, such as potatoes or fruit, that could be contaminated by fumes. Food stored in refrigerators or freezers can also become contaminated by fumes.
Canned goods and cookware exposed to chemicals can be decontaminated. Wash in a strong detergent solution, then dip in a bleach solution (one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water) for 15 minutes.
Reheating food that has become contaminated will not make it safe. When in doubt, throw it out, health officials say.
If red chemical fire retardant has been dropped on your house or property, it should be washed off as soon possible. Avoid using power washers, which may drive the red colorant into porous surfaces such as wood.
Limit water use to prevent puddles, which may be attractive to pets. Wash pets thoroughly with shampoo, as fire retardant is very drying to the skin.
Retardant is 85 percent water, 10 percent fertilizer and 5 percent other ingredients such as color, thickener and corrosion inhibitors. All wildland fire chemicals have been tested and meet safety requirements.