How to deal with immediate hazards and waste generated from property loss is often one of the first questions that arise for property owners who have been affected by catastrophic bushfires and Lithgow Council is now planning for this phase of the emergency response.
In response to the latest catastrophic fires Council is seeking to provide guidance and information to those who have lost buildings or experienced property damage. The following information is provided as initial guidance for the upcoming cleanup phase.
Firstly, initial safety should be considered. Before returning to your property after a bushfire, consider the following precautions to protect your health:
- do not enter your property until you are advised that it is safe to do so by emergency services or utility services
- electrical hazards could exist such as live power lines that may be down or active solar panels
- buildings and other structures may be unstable to enter or walk over
- be aware that hot, smoldering coals and other potentially hazardous materials may be hidden under the rubble
- Buildings built before 1987 may contain asbestos in the form of flat or corrugated sheets (fibro) used for walls, ceilings, roofing or in products such as pipes. Appropriate precautions and use of Personal Protective Equipment (eg P2 masks) is necessary.
- Wear sturdy footwear and heavy duty work gloves to protect you from being cut by broken glass, standing on sharp objects or getting burnt by smoldering coals
- Wear protective overalls (with long sleeves and trousers). If convenient, wear disposable coveralls and throw them out with the site waste after use. Any non-disposable clothing should be cleaned/laundered prior to reuse, including footwear
For those who have lost homes, and immediately associated outbuildings, assessment is now underway through NSW Fire and Rescue and Public Works. Then for waste disposal from demolition there are two pathways depending whether or not the home is insured.
For insured homes that have been damaged or destroyed, insurance companies will generally arrange clean-up and removal of bushfire debris. It is understood that the NSW Government will provide financial assistance to ensure any extraordinary clean-up costs do not result in a reduction in the insured amount for rebuilding. This additional assistance will be made available through insurers. If the property is insured, fire-affected residents should continue to work with their insurers on clean-up.
For uninsured homes that have been damaged or destroyed, Council understands that Public Works Advisory can arrange for the clean-up and removal of bushfire debris from residences and immediately adjacent outbuildings, including the removal of asbestos and concrete slabs. If your property is uninsured, then you should contact Public Works Advisory on 1800 88 55 39 to discuss clean-up.
Council also recognises that other properties have suffered less significant damage and property owners wish to undertake clean-ups themselves and take small loads of waste to landfill. This can be accommodated for Lithgow Local Government Area residents who may take domestic quantities (eg trailer loads) to the Lithgow Solid Waste Facility at no charge. Residents should advise the weighbridge officer of the address where the bushfire waste originated.
Further information on dealing with hazards from bushfire clean-ups including asbestos may be found on the following links: