Wildfires in California can become life-threatening within hours. This was underscored when the fire called Maria recently spread across 8,000 acres within a few hours. With no containment, such a fire threatens the lives of residents and both indoor and outdoor workers. Furthermore, the risks are not over when the fire is extinguished.
Smoke remains in the air while the fire burns and for a long time afterward. Safety authorities have strict rules to protect workers from inhaling the chemicals, particles and gases, and they mandate employers to provide respiratory protection. Working without breathing protection in the presence of wildfire smoke can cause severe health damage.
Once the fires are extinguished, different hazards become prevalent during cleanup proceedings. These include electrical hazards caused by downed power lines and other damaged electrical equipment, and all power sources must be regarded as live. Additional dangers arise when fuel-powered generators are used without proper safeguards and in insufficiently ventilated areas, posing carbon monoxide poisoning risks. Furthermore, working in areas that were destroyed by fire exposes workers to hazards like compromised structures, perforated chemical containers or other dangerous materials that they might not be able to identify due to fire damage.
These are but some of an endless list of hazards faced by cleanup workers after wildfires. Fortunately, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover health care costs and lost wages. However, dealing with the claims process could be daunting, and many injured workers seek the support and guidance of an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney to help them to obtain maximum benefits as allowed under applicable laws.