Short Answer: Possibly. Asbestos fibers are famous for being highly resistant to heat, and most will not burn in a standard house fire. Asbestos fibers can also become easily airborne, especially when asbestos-containing materials are damaged, as in a fire. They are light and can easily be carried by hot air and smoke.

As with any building fire, you should exercise caution and contact the authorities. But if the building is old, you should take steps not to breathe in the ash and smoke emitting from the building – for many health reasons, including minimizing your exposure to asbestos fibers.

Fires in asbestos-containing buildings can spread asbestos fibers via heat and smoke.

Take caution and consider being tested for asbestos exposure.

Once called a “miracle mineral,” asbestos’s long, thin, and flexible fibers make it naturally resilient and easy to incorporate into a variety of common products. Although people have sought out asbestos for thousands of years, it only became a mainstay of American industry in the early 20th century. With urbanization at its peak and millions of people moving into cities, manufacturers turned to asbestos to meet a growing need for inexpensive but durable construction materials. 

Asbestos was used to fireproof buildings, but a fire can spread asbestos fibers and cause health problems if inhaled or swallowed.

Unlike wood or plaster, asbestos seemed to stand the test of time—it was impervious to corrosion, incredibly strong, and capable of surviving all but the most devastating of fires. For nearly a century, asbestos was used to fortify and reinforce almost anything conceivable, from wall insulation to cement shingles and vinyl floor tiles. 

We know today that asbestos, for all its uses, is anything but safe. Beginning in the 1970s, the federal Environmental Protection Agency began restricting how, where, and when asbestos could be used, eventually banning most commercial uses of asbestos in 1989

Asbestos is still a public health problem.

However, even decades later, asbestos remains a critical threat to public health. Despite the E.P.A.’s restrictions, Washington never mandated that asbestos be removed from contaminated homes and structures. While remnant asbestos materials are not necessarily dangerous, they pose a significant threat when they break down and degrade. 

Asbestos exposure is a concern around building renovations, construction and demolition.

New construction work, routine renovations, and even catastrophic events such as fires could disperse asbestos particles into the atmosphere, exposing neighboring homes and communities to microscopic mineral fibers that are anything but miraculous. 

Asbestos and Home Fires 

The federal government instructs property owners to presume that asbestos is present in nay building that was constructed before the early 1980s. 

Asbestos that is safely contained in a non-fibrous condition (called ‘non-friable’) – for example asbestos in cement – generally poses less of a threat to human health. However, asbestos-containing materials, or ACMs, often release toxic dust when they are crumbled, torn, or otherwise damaged. When asbestos dust is released into an environment, it can linger in the atmosphere for hours—sometimes even days. 

When a structure catches on fire, high temperatures and concentrated heat can cause asbestos-containing materials to crack, bubble, and pop. Any change in the composition of an ACM could send asbestos fibers airborne, contaminating surfaces and materials that would have otherwise been safe. 

Clean-Up Activities Pose the Biggest Risk of Asbestos Exposure 

If a nearby asbestos-containing property has caught fire, call 9-1-1, seek shelter, and move yourself to safety as soon as possible. 

However, you should not assume that the risk of asbestos exposure has diminished once the fire has been contained. While a fire could send burnt asbestos-containing materials into the atmosphere, the risk immediately after a structural fire is usually somewhat low. 

Conversely, environmental levels of ACMs may rise during clean-up activities, as first responders sift through rubble and construction crews work to rehabilitate a damaged or destroyed property. 

Before venturing outside, you should always ask the fire department for advice. 


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.

Staying Safe After an Asbestos Building Fire  

Firefighting professionals wear special, protective equipment that shields them from heat, toxic chemicals, and airborne pollutants, including asbestos. However, even firefighters cannot fully protect themselves from asbestos exposure: statistically, they have a higher-than-average lifetime risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma. This is due, in no small part, to asbestos’s ability to not only linger in the air but cling to different surfaces. 

Ongoing dangers of asbestos exposure from a building fire

Even after taking the right precautions, you could still be exposed to asbestos by:

  • Inhaling fibers through the mouth or nose;
  • Ingesting fibers through the mouth; and 
  • Getting fibers on your skin, clothes, or personal affects. 

Since even fully-outfitted firefighters cannot always keep themselves safe from mesothelioma, you should stay indoors—with your doors and windows shut—until the fire department says it is safe to come outside. 

If you have to go outdoors during a building fire with containing asbestos fibers, you could protect yourself by: 

Avoiding contaminated areas. 

If your house was affected by a fire, or you lived near an affected structure, avoid the area until the fire department gives you the go-ahead. Even if a building is asbestos-free, fires can release other toxic chemicals that could have long-term health consequences. 

Wearing protective clothing. 

If you have reason to believe a fire could have released airborne asbestos, whether in your own home or elsewhere, minimize your exposure by wearing protective clothing.  In general, the federal government advises anyone working with or around asbestos to wear a face mask, gloves, and disposable clothing. 

Exercising extreme caution. 

Even trained asbestos abatement professionals sometimes struggle to recognize asbestos. Since some asbestos-containing materials can only be identified through laboratory testing, treat any product or material as if it is contaminated. After all: even though the E.P.A. banned asbestos in 1989, construction companies were not required to immediately destroy their supplies. Consequently, asbestos materials could have been used in home renovations and refurbishments as late as 1999. 

Staying informed. 

If your own home was affected by fire, contact an asbestos abatement to determine the extent of the potential contamination and explore your options for controlling, containing, and removing asbestos-containing materials. If you live near an asbestos-affected structure, retain contact with the fire department and ask your local health department if they have created an asbestos mitigation plan. 

Are You At Risk for an Asbestos Illness? 

Scientists believe there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure. Anyone who is exposed to a significant amount of asbestos—in the workplace, at home, or after a catastrophe—could develop an asbestos-related illness later in life. 

However, most asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, are diagnosed in persons who spent years working with and around asbestos. Typically, a short-duration exposure to asbestos is unlikely to present any long-term health consequences. 

If you, or a loved one, begin experiencing the symptoms of an asbestos-related condition, contact a physician immediately. 

AsbestosClaims.Law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information is helpful.

If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.

And if you believe that you were exposed to asbestos, or have been diagnosed with an asbestos illness, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

All without filing a lawsuit.

If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.