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Auckland Regional Public Health Service Advises Care Following School Fire

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is advising members of the public to take care if they are in the vicinity of Ponsonby Intermediate School where Tuesday’s fire occurred.

The blaze occurred in a building that had asbestos in its roof, with the fire and weather conditions spreading some debris up to 100 metres along one of the neighbouring roads, Sheehan Street.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather says any risk is very low and a number of measures have already been taken to protect people’s health.

"The Ministry of Education has taken steps to ensure the school site is safe and is arranging for appropriate demolition and removal of the building’s remains," she says. "Contractors have also removed debris from the street and footpaths and the road is being flushed."

Dr Barnfather says that while asbestos is known to have damaging health effects, this occurs only after high level exposure over long periods of time. She says that as the fire was a one-off incident, and the asbestos fibres are contained within the roofing material, the public health risk is considered very low.

"But if you pass through that neighbourhood, particularly if you are walking with pets or children, it’s important to be vigilant for any debris that may have come from the fire.

"Our advice, if you find any material you think may be asbestos, is to ensure that children and pets don’t pick it up, and to call Council to dispose of it appropriately."

The Council number to call is 09 301 0101.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service has already provided public health advice to local residents in the Sheehan Street area who were downwind of, and most affected by, Tuesday’s fire.

Additional information provided to local residents

Clean away residue from the smoke and dust by doing the following:

-Wearing a disposable mask (over nose and mouth) and gloves when cleaning up

-Damping down horizontal surfaces with a hose

-Wiping internal windowsills with a damp cloth

-Wiping carpets, if affected, with a damp cloth instead of vacuuming

-Disposing of any cleaning cloths/materials used in a sealed plastic bag, and then in another sealed plastic bag, for disposal with other household waste.

-Washing your hands and any dusty clothes thoroughly afterwards

-Rewashing any clothes that smell of smoke from being on an outside clothes line

-Leaving footwear outside of your home

-Bagging and binning the clippings from the first lawn-mow after the fire, if you have grass at your property.

More information about asbestos is also available here:

https://www.arphs.health.nz/public-health-topics/healthy-environments/asbestos/

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