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Returning to Your Home after a Wildfire

Use water safely

​​​​​​​​​After a wildfire, your home may be affected by smoke, soot and ash, chemicals, structural damage, and water damage. This information is a collection of health and safety items to think about as you return to your home. It covers many general topics. Not all of the information may apply to your situation, ​depending on the type of water system you have, how long you were evacuated, the seriousness of the wildfire, and whether or not the wildfire impacted your water system directly. Alberta Health Services and local authorities may give you more guidance specific to your situation.

Should I flush my water system before I use it when I return home after a wildfire?

Yes. It’s recommended that that you flush your water system to get the stagnant water out of your water lines.  Stagnant water is water that has been sitting in your water lines without moving or flowing for some time. Flush your system even if there’s a boil water advisory when you return home. Flush your system again once the boil water advisory has ended.

To flush your system:

  • Run all cold water taps for at least 5 minutes before you use them.
  • Run all hot water taps for at least 5 minutes before you use them, even if the water is not hot.

How can I use water safely during a boil water advisory?

For more information on how to use water safely for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing during a boil water advisory, see how to use water at home during a boil water advisory

What should I do with my private well or cistern?

Do a physical inspection of your well or cistern and test your water before you start using it. Your well or cistern may be physically damaged and your water supply may be contaminated by harmful germs (bact​eria) because of a loss of pressure.

If your well or cistern was directly impacted by the wildfire, contact a health inspector for more advice.

Where can I learn more about safe drinking water and water testing in Alberta?

You can also contact Environmental Public Health for more information.

Current as of: September 22, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services