A wildfire’s destruction is more than the millions of acres of scorched earth. It can be more than the homes, businesses, and habitats it destroys. A wildfire fills the air with smoke, ash, and pollution. Coupled with the flames, wildfires put people’s health and safety at risk.
When faced with an approaching wildfire, a person’s life should always be a priority. But it can be hard not to think about things you care about — your home, possessions, even your backyard pool.
If you are in a fire area, your swimming pool might have ash and other debris. Depending on how close you were to the fire, there might also be firefighting suppressants. Not only are they unsightly but they can be toxic.
But how do you clean a swimming pool after a wildfire?
The best course of action is to drain the pool when it is safe. It’s also important to inspect the empty pool, including the walls, finishes, and plumbing, to make sure there was no structural damage. According to the PHTA (formerly known as the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals), “The components of smoke from fire can cause severe lasting damage to equipment and structures.”
Related PoolSpaForum post: Fire ash in pool
How to Clean Pool After Wildfire
After a wildfire, your first priority might not be cleaning your swimming pool. However, taking quick action can help you minimize the effects of the fire.
The Pool and Hot Tub Alliance issued guidelines to help professionals and pool owners recover after a wildfire.
The best course of action is to drain the pool, clean all surfaces and components, and refill the pool. However, depending on the condition of your pool, you may also be able to clean your pool.
Remove Larger Debris
It is important to tackle this step as soon as possible and definitely before turning on the filter system. Cover your skimmer net with an old T-shirt, as this will help trap particles and debris as you skim the water surface.
Brush Surfaces Thoroughly
Use a brush to clean the walls and pool bottom. This will help loosen any dirt, ash, and other contaminants from the surface. You can use a pool vacuum to help clean up the debris that falls to the bottom. In addition, skim the water a second time to remove any debris that floats to the surface.
Inspect Filter and Equipment
Dirt and debris can quickly clog your pool filter after a wildfire. And, according to the PHTA, “ash can contain potassium and calcium oxides, which create quicklime. If enough of this ash gets into the pool and then to the filter, it can create a limestone cement coating on the filter media.”
Check on the filter system and clean it frequently. It’s important to keep the filtration system running so that the water does not become stagnant.
Shock and Treat the Pool
Use a quality non-chlorine shock treatment. Aim to get a chlorine level above 20 ppm.
Afterwards, a clarifier or filter aid material can help get rid of ash in the filter. An enzyme product can help break down other organic material.
Other products that can be useful when cleaning your pool after a wildfire include an enzyme can non-living organic material; a product that treats for phosphates; and a broad spectrum algaecide.