Frequently asked questions regarding the Private Property Debris Removal Program by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services

The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office provided this additional information on the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program,

 

  1. What is the Consolidated Debris Removal Program?

The Consolidated Debris Removal Program (state program) has two phases: removal of household hazardous waste and removal of other fire-related debris and trees that a certified arborist determines are dead or likely to die within five years as a result of the fire and that present a threat to public roads or other public infrastructure (“hazard trees”).

In Phase I, local government, state and federal agencies have organized teams of experts and contractors from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and/or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to inspect your property and assess, make safe, and/or remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, herbicides, pesticides, propane tanks, asbestos siding, and paints. Phase I is automatic and includes all residential properties that have been destroyed by the fires.

In Phase II, Cal OES, CalRecycle, FEMA and local officials will coordinate through a State Incident Management Team to conduct fire-related debris removal from your property if you have elected to participate in the State Program by signing a Right-of- Entry Form.

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  1. What do I need to do? Phase I (household hazardous waste)

You do not need to do anything to have household hazardous waste removed from your property. Operations are automatic and already underway.

Phase II (remaining debris, ash, and hazard trees): Contact local government officials to get a Right-of-Entry permit. You will fill out the permit to grant government contractors access to your property to conduct the debris removal. Check your local government’s website for information on how to obtain the form or visit wildfirerecovery.caloes.ca.gov.

  1. After I turn in a ROE to my local government, what happens next?

First, your local government will review your ROE and ensure it has been filled out correctly. If any information is missing or incomplete, your local government may contact you to collect additional details. Your local government will also cross check property records to verify that you are the property owner. Afterwards, the ROE will be transferred to the State Incident Management Team for processing and scheduling.

 

  1. How will I know if household hazardous waste has been removed from my property?

DTSC and US EPA will remove household hazard waste and place a stake and laminated sign in front of your property indicating that household hazardous waste has been removed. Please note that this sign indicates only that the household hazard waste removal phase has been complete. Site hazards such as asbestos, heavy metals, impalement hazards, or unsupported walls may still be present on the property.

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  1. Is the debris removal program only for houses that are completely destroyed?

This debris removal program is for fire-damaged or destroyed houses. Homes that have mostly burned, but may have walls still standing, may be eligible for the state’s debris removal program on a case-by-case basis. When you submit your Right-of-Entry permit, notify the representative that your structure is not completely destroyed, so your property may be reviewed as quickly as possible. You should also include a “total loss” letter from your insurance company with your Right-of-Entry permit, if insured.

 

  1. What is considered household hazardous waste?

Household hazardous waste is waste from houses that poses a threat to public health, animals or the environment. Hazardous waste includes chemicals that are ignitable, toxic, corrosive, or reactive. Examples include pool chemicals, car batteries, antifreeze, used oil filters, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, paint, bleach, and ammunition.

 

  1. Are burned electronics and appliances (white goods) included in the household hazardous waste cleanup?

Household hazardous waste removal crews will assess and remove e-waste during Phase 1. E-waste can include cathode ray tubes from televisions, computers, and other electronic devices. Larger appliances, such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators, that have been destroyed by the fire will be removed during Phase 2 as scrap metal.

 

  1. Why not just have the contractors remove household hazardous waste as part of the general clean up?

Household hazardous waste must be removed without delay to protect public health and safety. This is an emergency protective measure. Hazardous waste could have significant long-term environmental impacts and should not be combined with the waste from the general clean-up that is going to the landfill.

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Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents environmental contaminants from polluting the environment and protects the workers and the public from exposure during debris removal efforts.

Removal crews are specifically certified to handle household hazardous waste.

 

  1. When will my debris be cleared?

Crews have already begun removal of hazardous household waste across the State. Removal of fire debris and hazard trees, other than hazardous household waste, is scheduled to begin in October of 2021.

There are a number of factors that determine when your lot will be scheduled for debris removal. The local government sets priorities within the community, such as properties that are near public use facilities and areas with sensitive receptors, such as schools, parks, and nursing homes. Secondly, they prioritize areas that are a threat to the environment, such as near creeks and other bodies of water. To maximize efficiency, the State will schedule the properties as best they can in groups to maximize efficiency and overall productivity to restore the communities as quickly as possible.

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  1. What is soil testing? Why is this being performed, and how? Who tests the soil?

Crews scrape 3  to 6” of soil from the ash footprint and samples of the remaining soil are sent to a state-approved lab for analysis. The results are compared against fire-specific cleanup goals, which are established based on background samples taken from areas in the vicinity that are not directly impacted by fire and established human health screening levels. If necessary, more soil is removed and the site is retested until it meets the cleanup goals. All soil testing results are returned to the State Incident Management Team for final review and validation.

 

  1. After debris clearance and soil testing, what are the next steps?

Once the state’s Debris Task Force has ensured that contractors have removed all debris and soil testing meets California state standards, contractors will return to install erosion control methods. If eligible hazard trees have been identified on your property, these hazard trees will be felled and removed. After all work has been completed, Task Force personnel will conduct an onsite inspection of the property to confirm that all project specifications have been met. The State’s Debris Task Force will then report to your local government that your lot is clear. Your local government will then notify you that your property is safe and ready for rebuilding.

 

  1. Once the household hazardous waste is removed by the state or federal contractor, can property owners hire their own contractors to remove the remaining debris?

Yes. If you decide to remove fire-related debris from your property, you must obtain all the necessary permits and environmental clearances from your local government before your contractors start any work. This option is often referred to by your local government as the “Alternative” or “Private” program.

  1. I own a private-non-profit or a commercial property and it was damaged in the fire, is my property eligible?

While commercial properties are generally ineligible to participate in the state Program, these properties may be approved by the state on a case-by-case basis. The state will consider a commercial property owner’s ability to remove debris from the property and whether the debris on the property presents an immediate threat to the health and safety of the community. If you are responsible for a fire-damaged private nonprofit or commercial property, please advise your local government when submitting your ROE and be prepared to provide supplemental information if requested.

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  1. Will the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program remove

trees from my property?

Yes, the debris removal contractor will remove trees that are a threat to the safety of the debris removal crews while working on your property and hazard trees. The debris removal contractor may also remove other trees to access hazard trees.

 

  1. I don’t have any burned structures on my property, but I have hazard trees, am I eligible for the state’s Debris Removal Program?

Yes. Whether or not you have a burned structure, if you believe you have hazard trees on your property, you should submit a Right of Entry Form to your county. The state will use a certified arborist to determine whether the trees on your property present a threat to the public roads or other public infrastructure.

 

  1. Can I choose to keep hazard trees and remove all other debris under the state’s Debris Removal Program?

No. All fire-related debris, including hazard trees, must be removed under the state program.

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Health and safety

  1. My house was destroyed in the fire. Can I go back onto my property to see if I can find any valuables or mementos?

Sifting through your property will not jeopardize your claims for disaster assistance, including eligibility for the state program. However, sifting through structural debris can present serious health and safety risks. Property owners who desire to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution and with proper protective gear: eye protection, masks, gloves, long- sleeved shirts, and long pants. Residents should minimize contact with fire debris, which may contain materials that can be hazardous to your health. For more information, visit your local government public health website or visit the California Department of Public Health’s link at cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/NR18-056.aspx

Property owners may not begin their own cleanup operations, including moving debris outside of the structural footprint, separating debris into piles, or recovering certain items (such as metals) for recycling, in advance of the state program. Doing so will render the property ineligible for further debris removal assistance, as the state cannot take over the cleanup after it has been started. Property owners should not commence any cleanup work until approved to do so by their local environmental health department.

 

  1. Can residents be present during the clean-up of their personal property?

Yes, however, exclusion zones will be established surrounding the work area to ensure safety, and property owners may not enter these zones during debris removal. These zones will be marked with yellow and red tape. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during debris operations. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where debris removal operations are underway.

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  1. How is the state’s Debris Task Force protecting our rivers, streams,

and aquifers from contamination?

The state’s Debris Task Force will use erosion controls on the site as well as use silt collection devices around storm drains to minimize impacts to rivers, streams, and the aquifers. They are also taking measures such as wrapping the debris in trucks to minimize particles traveling from the air to the water.

 

  1. Who ensures compliance with worker safety regulations?

The state’s safety professionals and contractor safety professionals ensure work complies with all applicable Cal/OSHA standards.

 

  1. What environmental regulations are contractors required to comply with?

Contractors are generally required to comply with all state and federal environmental protection laws and regulations. Because of the emergency nature of the cleanup, certain state permitting and regulatory requirements are waived in order to expedite operations. However, contractors are still required to take all appropriate measures to protect natural and cultural resources, including protecting endangered species, creeks and streams, and historical artifacts. The state Incident Management Team employees resource professionals, such as biologists and archaeologists, to help ensure the environment is protected during debris removal.

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Payment and Insurance

 

  1. Who will pay for the debris removal?

All upfront costs will be paid by state and federal agencies. However, if property owners have homeowner’s insurance covering debris removal, owners must inform local officials by indicating that coverage on their ROE. Homeowners will be required to remit that portion of their insurance proceeds specifically reserved for debris (see additional clarification below).

 

  1. If I have homeowner’s insurance, can I still participate in the debris removal program?

Yes. However, to avoid a duplication of benefits provided by the state or federal government, your insurance company will be required to provide payment from your policy designated for debris removal to the government. (See additional clarification below)

 

  1. What portion of my homeowner’s policy will the local government

collect for debris removal?

It depends on the policy that you have. There are generally two types of debris removal coverages in a homeowner’s insurance policy:

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  • Specified amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy contains a separate, debris-specific clause, the local government will only collect the specified amount designated in the debris removal clause. These clauses are typically capped at a percentage of the coverage amounts listed in the policy (for example, five percent of the value of a primary structure, other structure, and personal property). You will not owe the local government any additional money, even if the actual costs to remove the debris exceeded the amount designated in your insurance policy for debris removal. The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed all fire related debris.
  • No specified amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, the local government will only collect insurance proceeds for debris removal after you have rebuilt your home. The local government will only collect any available insurance proceeds, if any, after the rebuild. If there are no remaining funds, the homeowner will not owe the local government any additional money for debris removal.

 

  1. If I participate in the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, will the local government have the right to take all my insurance proceeds?

No. The local government will only seek reimbursement from the insurance carrier as stated above. The local government will not attempt to collect any insurance proceeds designated for rebuilding.

 

  1. Can I use my debris removal insurance policy to remove items that are ineligible for removal under the Consolidated Debris Removal program?

Yes. If you have a specified amount for debris removal in your insurance policy, you may use your insurance proceeds to remove fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program (e.g., swimming pools, patios etc.). The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire-related debris.

If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, you may use these proceeds to pay for the removal of fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program. The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire- related debris.

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In either scenario, the property owner will be required to substantiate all expenditures.

 

  1. Will the state’s Debris Task Force use local contractors in this

effort?

The state Incident Management Team will choose a prime contractor who will hire subcontractors. The state Incident Management Team will make every effort to encourage the prime contractor to use local subcontractors.

If you have any questions regarding the state program, send them to [email protected] or visit our website at wildfirerecovery.caloes.ca.gov.

 

  1. How do I find out more about contracting opportunities with CalRecycle for the state program?

This FAQ is intended for disaster survivors and impacted property owners. To learn more about the contracting process for the state program, to calrecycle.ca.gov/contracts.

 

  1. Who retains the revenue from material recycled by the State Program, such as concrete, metal and hazard trees?

The bids submitted by state program contractors account for any revenue the contractors expect to receive for recycling metals, concrete, or hazard trees. This practice encourages recycling efforts and lowers the overall cost of the project paid by taxpayers. All recycling revenues are retained by the contractor and tracked by the State Incident Management Team.

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