The remains of 2020 wildfire survivors’ homes and property – burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil – have now been cleared from more than 80 percent of the properties enrolled in California’s statewide Consolidated Debris Removal Program. Most properties still need critical soil testing, erosion control, and hazard tree removal to ensure the lots are safe for families to rebuild.
In 2020, over 8,000 climate-induced wildfires burned 4.2 million acres of California, destroying more than 5,700 homes. Property owners incur no direct costs for participation in the state-managed clean up and recovery program, administered by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in collaboration with 25 participating counties.
Wildfire survivors had the option to either use their own contractor or enroll in the state-managed program. Of the 5,991 properties with damage from the 2020 fires, 3,764 signed up to have the remains of their homes and other structures cleared by the state.
As of mid-May, 2021, state-managed crews cleared burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil from 3,141 or 83.4 percent of the properties participating in the program.
Before homeowners can begin rebuilding, cleared properties need additional work including:
• Separate contractors collect soil samples for verification at a state certified laboratory that they meet state environmental health and safety standards.
• Contractors next may install erosion control measures.
• Certified arborists or professional foresters assess wildfire-damaged trees in danger of falling on the public or public infrastructure for removal by separate contractors.
• Finally, state officials inspect the property to verify all completed work meets state standards. Debris officials submit a final inspection report to local officials to approve the property for reconstruction.
So far, 940 properties have gone through the entire post-debris removal steps of soil testing, erosion control, and removal of fire-damaged trees in danger of falling on public infrastructure before being returned to the county to begin reconstruction. A total of 897 properties have cleared the entire process.