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Wildfire Debris Removal Process Nears Completion

Ninety-one percent of properties whose owners signed up to participate in California’s debris removal program following the 2020 wildfires have completed the entire debris removal process and can now begin reconstruction.

Administered by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), the State’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program works to remove eligible fire-related debris, including burned metal, concrete, contaminated soil and ash from burned properties at no cost to the property owners.

So far, 4,066 of the 4,468 properties enrolled in either the full debris removal program or the program’s hazardous trees only element. The return of the properties to county officials clears the way for owners to begin the permitting process for reconstruction.

In October, the state reached a huge milestone in clearing wildfire debris from last year’s record fire season – 100 percent of properties were cleared of debris. In addition, state crews finished clearing more than 1.25 million tons — or over 2.5 billion pounds — of ash, debris, metal, concrete, and contaminated soil from the nearly 4,000 properties that took part in California’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program. That’s equivalent to nearly 42,000 fire engines.

Those properties not yet returned to officials in their respective counties still need soil testing, erosion control, or hazard tree removal to ensure the parcels are safe for families to rebuild.

In 2020, more than 8,000 climate-induced wildfires burned 4.2 million acres of California, destroying more 5,991 homes.

To view the data, visit the 2020 Debris Operations Dashboard.

Implemented under the leadership of the Cal OES and local governments, the Consolidated Debris Removal Program offers survivors of the wildfires a streamlined option to clear their properties with no out-of-pocket costs. Following the specialized removal of household hazardous waste from burned parcels, CalRecycle oversees and manages contractors conducting the second phase of debris removal. Once cleaned, each property is tested to ensure that no residual toxins, such as heavy metals, remain to endanger those rebuilding.

Debris removal operations are coordinated across local jurisdictions, state agencies and departments, federal representatives, and Tribal representatives, with 25 counties involved in the 2020 operation, including Stanislaus County. Property owners who wish to conduct their own cleanup or hire private contractors to remove wildfire debris are still bound by local safety and environmental standards and requirements.

For more information on the state’s wildfire recovery efforts, visit Cal OES’s dedicated page.