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Information for home renovators, businesses and volunteers who are involved with a clean up and recovery of buildings damaged by fires.

During a fire, asbestos containing building materials will typically crack or spall. Spalling occurs when flakes of the material 'pop' off due to the build up of pressure inside the material. This happens when water turns to steam.

Asbestos fibres released during a fire are mainly released through spalling. Fires involving asbestos containing materials can produce a range of asbestos debris, including unburnt and partly burnt pieces. Some asbestos containing materials can be severely damaged during the fire.

Monitoring of air during and after fires indicates that asbestos fibre concentrations typically are very low. This is likely to be due to the low numbers of fibres actually released and the large volumes of air circulated by fires.

Minor disturbances, such as walking on the site or wind blowing over the site, are unlikely to generate significant quantities of airborne asbestos. More significant disturbances, such as during clean-up or demolition of the fire-damaged building, must be done safely to ensure the level of asbestos fibres in the air is kept very low.

To minimise disturbance of the debris, the following precautions can be implemented:

  • Persons should be warned and prevented from walking on or through the fire debris thereby minimising release of asbestos fibres from the debris. This can be achieved as follows.
  • Putting up warning signs cautioning people from entering the boundaries of the property containing the fire damaged building. An existing fence around the boundary of the property may be used to affix the required signage and aid in preventing persons from entering the debris area. If signage is not sufficient to keep people out of the debris zone consideration should be given to erecting a fence.