The Kincade Fire has had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. With an estimated 374 destroyed structures, the County is working with property owners to clear their properties so rebuilding can begin.
Clearing properties includes two steps:
Step 1: Household Hazardous Waste Sweep – completed by the County.
Step 2: Fire Debris Removal – completed by property owners with support from the County.
Household Hazardous Waste Cleanup
The County of Sonoma will conduct an initial Household Hazardous Waste sweep on properties impacted by the Kincade Fire to protect the public and the environment. The County is working to enter into an emergency contract to begin removing Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) from properties impacted by the Kincade Fire at no cost to impacted property owners.
Community members should refrain from entering the burn footprint without personal protective equipment, and do not begin cleanup activities until authorized by the Department of Health Services, Environmental Health. Hazardous debris after a wildfire can be toxic, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts throughout the community.
The selected contractor will inspect properties and remove any Household Hazardous Waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, and paints. All commercial, residential and out-buildings impacted by the fire will be included, regardless of size.
Hazardous Household Waste clean up will begin the week of November 11, 2019, and is expected to take up to 3 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions about Household Hazardous Waste Cleanup
Why is the County conducting an emergency sweep of all burned properties to remove Household Hazardous Waste?
The County Health Officer has proclaimed a health emergency due to the hazardous waste on burned properties. Household hazardous waste includes leftover household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic. Products such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, ammunition, propane, and pesticides can contain hazardous ingredients and require special handling and disposal. Some impacted properties may also have asbestos, which requires special handling. The County is conducting an emergency sweep to remove hazardous waste from properties that threatens the community and the environment. This removal will be at no cost to impacted property owners.
The County’s contractor will inspect all fire-damaged properties and remove hazardous waste that is detected. Household hazardous waste must be removed without delay to protect public health and safety. Additionally, hazardous waste could have significant long-term health and environmental impacts and cannot be combined with the waste from the general fire debris clean-up that will be going to landfills. Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents these environmental contaminants from polluting the environment, and protects workers and the community from exposure. The crews that conduct removal are specifically certified to handle household hazardous waste and will be wearing protective equipment.
The County is conducting a rapid sweep, not a comprehensive clean-up. Detected hazardous waste will be removed, but some hazardous waste may be missed or may otherwise require subsequent clean-up actions during the debris removal phase by someone certified to handle household hazardous waste.
No. The removal during the Household Hazardous Waste sweep will be limited. Fire debris removal for the purpose of clean-up and rebuild is a separate process.
There is no cost to property owners for the Household Hazardous Waste Removal.
The Household Hazardous Waste sweep will begin on Tuesday, November 12 and is expected to take up to 3 weeks.
The County’s emergency ordinance requires a hazardous waste inspection on all properties. Removal by a private contractor is authorized, but will be done at the homeowner’s expense and work done must meet or exceed the standards set by local, state, and federal agencies. This includes compliance with all legal requirements for handling and disposal, and compliance with County deadlines. If you wish to do this work yourself, please contact Environmental Health at (707) 565-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org prior to starting any debris removal process.
Owners are not required to be present for the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during Household Hazardous Waste Sweep. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where Household Hazardous Waste Sweep operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.
Can I be sued by the County or contractor that is removing Household Hazardous Waste from my property?
No. Household Hazardous Waste contractors will be licensed and insured, and their insurance will cover any injuries or damage to equipment that occurs during the Household Hazardous Waste removal process.
If my house is undamaged, but in a burned neighborhood, can I live in my house during the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep?
Generally yes. Exclusion zones will be set up as a safety precaution but it is not anticipated that they will impact standing residences.
The second step in property clean-up can start after the Household Hazardous Waste sweep is complete. Property owners can now download the Debris Removal Application form and Sample Site Work Plan. Property owners should also download and review Debris Removal Requirements and Debris Removal Completion Certification. Applications and work plans must be approved by Environmental Health prior to debris removal. Property owners may contact Environmental Health at (707) 565-6700 or EHDebrisRemoval@sonoma-county.org for questions regarding the application process.
Frequently Asked Questions about Debris Removal
Property owners will need to hire a contractor to remove fire debris. Property owners must submit a Sonoma County Debris Removal Application to Department of Health Services Environmental Health, identifying how debris will be removed. Environmental Health can assist with completing this form. You may contact Environmental Health for assistance with this application at (707) 565-6700 or email@example.com.
Is the County planning to conduct a government sponsored debris removal program for the remainder of the debris?
No. The Federal government is not offering the assistance that was offered in 2017. Unlike in 2017, all property owners are responsible for cleaning debris from their properties following Household Hazardous Waste removal, through an approved Debris Removal Application.
No. On November 1, 2019, the Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip issued an order advising community members to refrain from entering the burn footprint without personal protective equipment, and to not begin clean-up activities until authorized by the Department of Health Services, Environmental Health. Hazardous debris after a wildfire can expose residents to toxic materials, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts throughout the community.
If the property owner, or their insurance company, needs to remove a vehicle they can do so after Household Hazardous Waste removal has been completed on their property. Extreme caution should be taken to not disturb the ash footprint. Vehicles must be disposed of in accordance with state and local requirements (e.g. county abatement process and at an appropriate landfill).
The Northern Engineering Contractors Association (call (707) 546-5500) can provide you a list of contractors that can assist in developing your debris removal plan, including soil assessment and testing.
Because soils in Sonoma County have naturally occurring levels of asbestos and other chemicals, it is important to identify what elements were previously existing on your soil before the fire, such that the property can be brought back to native conditions. Guidelines, requirements and procedures to perform this work are included within the Sonoma County Department of Health Services Environmental Health document “Management of Sonoma County Wildfire Debris”. Generally, this work consists of collecting baseline and confirmation samples under the responsible charge of a licensed geologist or engineer and having the soil analyzed at an analytical laboratory.
If your property is near a burned structure, but was not damaged please call your insurance company to follow up on what if any assessment you may need to take. You may also wish to consult a certified industrial hygienist to ensure your property is safe. To find a local certified industrial hygienist, please contact the American Board of Industrial Hygiene and select the Find a CIH near you button.