Returning home after the River Fire

Updated on Aug. 7, 2021

As River Fire evacuees begin to return home, it’s important to be aware that the danger is not over after the flames are put out. Structural damage, road instability, and damaged trees are just some of the dangers that exist after a wildfire. 

Keep these tips in mind:

  • A message on water quality from Placer County Water Agency: Upon return of water service for customers in the Colfax area, if the water looks cloudy or dirty, do not drink it. Let the hot and cold water lines run until the water appears clear. If you are experiencing water pressure issues, please contact customer services at (530) 823-4850. As PCWA continues to assist firefighting efforts, please be mindful of your water use to ensure firefighting personnel have access to essential water supplies when necessary.
  • Stay away from your home or business until fire officials tell you it is safe to return.
  • Be aware of and use extreme caution around trees, power poles, and other tall objects or structures that may have lost stability during the fire. Most burned structures and surfaces will be unstable. Stay out of burned forests during windy conditions, as burned trees are easily downed by wind. Do not touch any power lines.
  • Keep a “fire watch.” That means look for smoke or sparks throughout the house and on rooftops (e.g., in gutters), etc. Look for ash pits or hidden embers. Stay away – they can burn you. Check grounds for hot spots, smoldering stumps, and vegetation. Check the roof and exterior areas for sparks or embers. Check the attic and throughout your house for any hidden burning sparks or embers.
  • Before inspecting your home, first check for the smell of gas. Turn off power until you’ve completed your inspection. Use a battery-powered flashlight to inspect a damaged home. (Note: the flashlight should be turned on outside before entering. The battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.)
  • Do not drink or use water from the faucet until emergency officials say it is okay; water supply systems can be damaged and become polluted during wildfires or as a result of subsequent post-fire flooding. If your well has been damaged by fire, contact a local licensed and bonded well constructor or pump installer to determine the extent of the damage and what must be done to either repair or decommission the well.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, flood waters, or soot.
  • Utilities: If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. If the breakers are on and power is still not present, contact the utility company. If you have a propane tank or system, contact a propane supplier, turn off valves on the system, and leave valves closed until the supplier inspects your system. If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before you use it. If you have a solar electrical system, this system should be inspected by a licensed technician to verify that the solar panels and electrical wiring are safe for continued operation.

 *Information adapted from