Rebuilding After a Wildfire

It is not as easy as one might think.

You might think that after a wildfire destroys a home or business, there would be a process to follow to rebuild on the site — which there is — but it all takes time. See this news release from the state of California for fires that occurred in 2020. Debris removal is not as easy as it sounds.

Wildfire Debris Cleared from Nearly 90 Percent of Properties in Solano, Nevada, Stanislaus, Yuba and Yolo Participating in State Debris Removal Program

SACRAMENTO -- In another important milestone in helping Californians rebuild and recover, the state announced today that it has cleared eligible wildfire debris from nearly 90 percent of eligible properties in Solano, Nevada, Stanislaus, Yuba and Yolo counties whose owners are participating in the state's Consolidated Debris Removal Program.

Under the program, administered by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in conjunction with participating counties, property owners incur no direct costs for participation.

To date, crews have cleared burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil from 124, or 89.9 percent, of the 138 participating properties in the five counties. Statewide, contractors have finished removing debris from 2,704 or 72.2 percent, of 3,745 participating parcels.

[This is Eric's emphasis] Although removal of debris from the properties moves property owners one step closer to rebuilding, debris officials remind property owners that the process is not over and that state contractors must complete additional work before they can begin reconstruction.

Once a state crew has cleared a property of eligible debris, the surveying contractor will return to the site and collect soil samples for testing at a state certified laboratory to verify that the samples taken from an owner's property meet state environmental health and safety criteria.

If the soil samples meet state environmental and safety criteria, contractors then install fiber rolls and apply a virgin-based, biodegradable mulch to every cleared property whose owners have opted to have contractors implement the two types of erosion control measures.

Following these erosion control measures, state officials and staff conduct a walkthrough of the property to ensure that all work done by state crews meets the state's standard. If work meets the state's standards, debris officials submit a final inspection report to local officials, clearing the way for the property owner to begin reconstruction.

To date, state contractors have cleared eligible debris from 103, or 89.6 percent of the 115 properties in Solano County who are participating in the state program.  Debris officials have returned 32 cleared properties to county officials as ready for reconstruction.

Additional work by state crews in Solano County includes the completion of 115 site assessments and 114 asbestos assessments, as well as the abatement of 28 properties where contractors identified bulk quantities of asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

In Nevada, County, state crews have cleared debris from eight of the 10 properties in the county whose owners are participating in the program. State debris officials have returned two of the cleared properties to county officials as ready for reconstruction.

Earlier, contractors in Nevada, County completed site and asbestos assessments on each participating property and abated bulk quantities of ACMs on three parcels.

Contractors have removed eligible debris from all six participating properties in Stanislaus, County after site and asbestos assessments on each and asbestos abatements on five of the properties.

Crews also have cleared all six participating parcels in Yuba, County and the only participating property in Yolo, County following site and asbestos assessments of each parcel and asbestos abatements on three Yuba, County properties. Debris officials have returned the only participating property in Yolo, County to local officials as ready for reconstruction.

State officials coordinating the removal of debris caused by last year's wildfires are reminding property owners participating in the state's Consolidated Debris Removal Program that performing any debris removal work themselves once state contractors have begun will result in their disqualification from the state program.

Participating property owners who are unsure where they are in the debris removal process can check the Debris Operations Dashboard for the 2020 statewide wildfires. The dashboard is updated every hour and provides users with the ability to sort by branch or county via the filters at the top of the page. Users can also search by address via the magnifying glass icon at the top of the map to learn of the debris removal status of their property.
Eric Holdeman is a nationally known emergency manager. He has worked in emergency management at the federal, state and local government levels. Today he serves as the Director, Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR), which is part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER). The focus for his work there is engaging the public and private sectors to work collaboratively on issues of common interest, regionally and cross jurisdictionally.