Neighbors in smoke plume area should clean homes, wash clothes, throw away food left out

Black smoke from a burning scrap yard in North Portland invades nearby neighborhoods Monday, March 12, 2018, causing health concerns. (KATU Photo)

As hundreds of people return to their homes in Northeast Portland Tuesday morning, health officials say it's important for them to clean their belongings and throw away any food that may have been left out.

Hundreds were evacuated due to a massive fire at a scrap-yard at NE 75th Avenue and Killingsworth Monday morning.

RELATED: Officials say air quality has improved near fire, most evacuated residents can go home

William Wolfe lives in the area and said he's frustrated and stressed out.

"Obviously it's right in our back yard, blowing right over our house from the east wind," Wolfe said of the fire.

He was checking on his home early Tuesday morning, as it is just inside the immediate evacuation zone. He knows they'll need to clean, and wash their clothes thoroughly.

"We need to throw a lot of things away, and start hoping that smell isn't stuck in our clothes and our bedding, and our furniture and just everything else," Wolfe said.

Here are tips from county health leaders:

  • Remove your shoes before you go inside to avoid tracking soot in.
  • Put on pants, long sleeves and gloves (such as household dish washing gloves) before you begin cleaning. If you get any ash on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe ash from household surfaces. Visible pieces of ash are big enough to be kept out of the lungs by the body’s natural defenses in the nose and throat, but when it circulates in the air, it can irritate the skin, nose and throat, and can trigger an attack for people who have asthma. Wetting the area and wiping it up can help protect you.
  • Wipe off children’s toys.
  • Gently sweep ash from the floors and follow with a wet mop. Avoid vacuums without a HEPA filter, so you don’t put ash back into the air.
  • Wipe soot and smoke from walls, furniture and floors using a mild soap or detergent and warm water.
  • Wash any fruits and vegetables with a mild soap from your garden before eating them.
  • Throw away any food left on counter tops.
  • Wash the family pets.
  • Take your vehicles to a local brushless car wash to avoid scratching the paint.

"Just put out stressed out, put out, you know? Do you take the kids to school, do you go to work? You know, all that type of stuff is going through your head," Wolfe said, adding he can't wait until it's safe to be in his own home again. "I don't know how [the fire] could get so big."

Once it's in the clear and all the bad air is out of there, officials say when you go back home, open your doors and windows - and make sure to ventilate your home properly.

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