Wildfire Information | Northern Health

Wildfire Information

Wildfires and your Health

Water Quality – ensuring your drinking water is safe for use

Water quality can be compromised by a variety of emergencies, including natural disasters like forest fire or flooding. Environmental Health Officers routinely inspect, sample and assess Community Water Systems in Northern BC. Water systems with high hazard ratings are generally put on a boil advisory until the source of contamination is found, or adequate treatment facilities are installed.

If you are concerned about impacts on a community water system following a natural disaster or other emergency situation, please refer to the following resources:

If you have your own water supply and have questions about potential impact on that supply, contact your local Environmental Health Officer.

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Food Safety – safe food handling and preparation in emergency situations

Food safety is an important consideration in emergency situations such as a power outage, or following a period of evacuation from your home.

Food safety when evacuation orders are lifted:

Upon returning to your home following a period of evacuation, it is important to ensure any food left behind has not spoiled or been compromised by a power outage.

Check expiry dates on food left behind during a period of evacuation, to determine if they are still safe to eat.  If frozen foods have thawed, they may not be safe to eat and must be discarded. (Thawed and refrozen ice cream may be a good indicator that helps to determine whether the freezer has been off. Fish product that is malodorous on thawing is also a good sign.)

If in doubt throw it out. Do not take any chances with the safety of your food.

Food safety when the power is out:

If you are affected by a power outage, there are steps you can take to prevent food spoilage. Drinking water quality can also be compromised from power outages, contact your water supplier if you have questions.

When you lose power , if a generator powered refrigeration unit is available, transfer food to the unit. If a powered refrigeration unit is not available, leave food in the refrigerator or freezer and keep the door closed. 

Food safety when the power returns:

  • Ideally, fridge temperatures should remain at 4 degrees Celsius or below and foods in the freezer should remain frozen solid. 
  • A refrigerator can keep food cool for up to 12 hours and a freezer can keep food safe for days if it is kept closed.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer or if you don’t know how long your fridge was without power:
  • Check the products in the fridge for spoilage and souring.  Milk and other dairy products that have gone off/sour are good indicators that the fridge has been off and all food should be discarded.
  • If frozen foods have thawed, they may not be safe to eat and must be discarded.
  • Food in the freezer that has or may have reached 4C or higher should be discarded and must not re-frozen.
    • Thawed and refrozen ice cream may be a good indicator that helps to determine whether the freezer has been off. Fish product that is malodorous on thawing is also a good sign.
  • If there has been an extended power outage it may be necessary to contact your insurance provider. Make a list of items discarded and photograph these items if possible for insurance purposes.
  • Extra precautions should apply to ready to eat foods.
  • If in doubt throw it out. Do not take any chances with the safety of your food.
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