Asbestos Dangers in CA Wildfires

Asbestos Dangers in CA Wildfires

The recent wild fires in both Northern and Southern California have left a lot of families homeless in that portion of the country. The fires also left behind plenty of dangerous debris, including bits and pieces of a variety of materials that may contain asbestos.

That’s why one Sonoma County mobile home park is closing until the materials in the widely-destroyed community can be tested for the presence of the toxic mineral.

Asbestos Dangers in CA WildfiresThe Journey’s End Mobile Home Park, located in Santa Rosa, was gravely affected by the so-called Santa Rosa Fire, which actually reached well beyond the borders of the city of the same name.

EPA officials shut it down last Friday morning, noting that 25 sites within the park were littered with debris that may contain asbestos.

They also reported that 140 of 160 homes in the park were a total loss, incinerated by the fire that left so many Sonoma County residents without a place to call home.

EPA coordinator at the scene, Tom Dunkelman, told the crowd of residents gathered at a nearby community center last week that he didn’t know whether there was asbestos or not at the various sites but that they were erring on the side of caution.

“It’s for your protection,” he told them, noting that he also didn’t know how long it would take to sift through the rubble and then clean it up.

The “best-case scenario,” added assistant fire marshal Paul Lowenthal, is that the asbestos is limited to “isolated areas” that can be cleaned up fairly quickly. But, Lowenthal pointed out, the material “could be scattered throughout the mobile home park.”

He said that test results on the debris won’t be available until later this week and, in the meantime, the Santa Rosa Fire Department has determined Journey’s End is “an unhealthy place to be” at this time.

EPA officials had previously tested a neighborhood across Highway 101 from Journey’s End. In that community – Coffey Park – more than 1,000 homes had been leveled but no “obvious asbestos” was found, reported the Press Democrat.

That makes it hard for some to understand why they can’t return to the Journey’s End, at least to gather what’s left.

“Why can’t I go in there and get my belongings?” asked Michele Trammell, a 12-year resident of Journey’s End. “I don’t really care about asbestos. I want to go home and get my stuff.”

Officials warned the residents, however, that asbestos can be very hazardous to their health, eventually causing respiratory diseases if inhaled. For now, the closure remains law and homeowners will just need to wait a little longer.