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Fire-damaged structures & asbestos: A quick review of initial steps

A survey by an AHERA building inspector is your first required step

Asbestos can be present in building materials, regardless of the age of the structure. When building materials are damaged/destroyed, any asbestos fibers present in the ash and debris can become airborne and inhaled. Exposure to these fibers can lead to a host of serious health issues, including mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen) and asbestosis (scarring of lung tissues).

To prevent the uncontrolled release of harmful asbestos fibers, we have requirements for renovation and demolition activities. Debris remaining from fire-damaged structures is considered demolition, therefore the resident homeowner must do the following prior to handling fire debris from burned structures:

Survey. This involves hiring an AHERA-certified Building Inspector to conduct a survey. The inspector will take samples of the ash/fire debris in a grid-type layout. The samples are sent to a lab for analysis. The building inspector may also be able to guide you as to whether you are better off continuing with a survey or instead, assume that all of the debris contains asbestos and skip the full survey and analysis.

Results of the survey dictate next steps:

Negative: Homeowner or contractor files a NOI (Notice of Intent) with SRCAA indicating such. We are waiving the filing fee. Then, the homeowner (or someone they hire) can haul the debris to the Graham Rd landfill. They will want to see the survey report showing no asbestos. Per state law, fire debris is classified as demolition and therefore cannot be buried on your property.

Positive: If the survey comes back positive for asbestos (or you are choosing to assume it contains asbestos and forgo the survey/sampling) the area needs to be caution-taped off to keep people away from the area until the debris can be properly removed and disposed of. In most cases, homeowners will need to hire a certified asbestos abatement company to conduct the demolition/removal. Get multiple quotes and research prior to hiring. (Link below)

Before the abatement/removal begins, a NOI needs to be filed with SRCAA. A demolition permit from County building department must be obtained. The demo permit requires the NOI number to process. The debris must be wrapped and labeled according to requirements.

If your home was slightly damaged and needs renovation-type repairs (vs demolition) the requirements are a bit different. Please visit this webpage for more details on asbestos demolition and renovation activities.

If you need any help in navigating the asbestos requirements, call (509) 477-4727. We’ve also created this FAQ for those affected by the Gray and Oregon Rd fires.

Do your homework to ensure the contractor you hire is reputable, properly licensed, and aware of the asbestos requirements. We have a list of asbestos service providers. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has lists and other information here.

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