Amid Holy Fire, Lake Elsinore residents clean up pink fire retardant and ash

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (KABC) -- With the Holy Fire 52 percent contained and away from homes in Lake Elsinore, Monday saw an all-out onslaught from power washers on homes turned pink.

The culprit: fire retardant drops, a valuable firefighting tool.

"We do everything we can to avoid targets on the ground whether it's fire equipment, homes. Obviously the conditions are ever-changing. There's wind, that's a huge factor," said Fred Mata, an engineer with CAL Fire.

Fire retardant is used to slow down the movement of a fire and is non-toxic. It's composed of 85 percent water, 10 percent fertilizer, and coloring which allows crews to locate where it's been dropped.

"What we recommend is to wash it off as soon as possible. Obviously the longer it sets, the tougher it will be," said Mata.

But, when you've been evacuated for days, the cleanup is postponed.

"I'm so happy this is over. It's been since last Monday. I was worried to keep my house," said Annie Sperline, who lives in Lake Elsinore.

The city cleaned Annie Sperline's driveway and sidewalk, but it's up to her to take care of the rest. She says all that matters is that her home is still standing.

"We've been told from firefighters what exactly will happen. They told us. How they gonna manage. How they gonna take care of it and it happened exactly like that," said Sperline.

The Riverside County Health Department says as residents return to their homes and begin the cleanup, they should also be aware of the hazards of ash.

"If you have asthma, if you have bronchitis, it can exacerbate those conditions and make them worse. If you don't have those conditions, you can still have shortness of breath, wheezing, irritation to your throat and eyes. Any of those types of things," said Kim Saruwatari, the director of public health for Riverside County.
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