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Local health emergency declared in Santa Barbara County due to T - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Local health emergency declared in Santa Barbara County due to Thomas Fire

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The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department declared a local health emergency following the Thomas Fire.  As a part of protecting the public's health and to facilitate safe clean up practices, the County Health Officer ordered the removal, transport, and disposal of hazardous materials and debris collected during the clean up.

The Public Health Department's Director Van Do-Reynoso said "this declaration is similar to those issued by other California counties recently affected by wildfires, and is necessary to ensure that we have state and federal resources during our recovery process."

The declaration was made in an effort to prevent residents from being exposed to toxic and threatening materials left over from a major wildfire disaster like the Thomas Fire, and applies to both incorporated and unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. 

When residential structures burn, toxic debris created by the fire can contain metals, asbestos and other hazardous materials.  Other materials left in homes, sheds or garages like paint, cleaning products and chemicals can result in the creation of toxic materials following a fire.  Exposure to these dangerous materials could result in acute and chronic health effects.

"Exposure to these hazards can cause acute and chronic health effects.  With winter rains and the potential for storms right around the corner, there is also a risk that these hazardous materials could enter critical watersheds or spread to other properties if not properly removed," Health Officer Charity Dean said.

The declaration, signed by Do-Reynoso and Dean, means the California Department of Toxic Substance Control or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can assess damaged properties and safely remove household hazardous wastes at no cost to the property owner.  The declaration also enables property owners to voluntarily participate in a Fire Debris Clearance Program run by the State Office of Emergency Services and CalRecycle.

If property owners choose to opt out of the program, they must receive permission from the Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services before removing fire debris.  

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