Debris Removal after the 2019 Kincade Fire

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The Kincade Fire has had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. With 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 – this has been completed by the County.
Step 2: Fire Debris Removal – completed by property owners with support from the County by August 1, 2020.

Debris Removal

Important Documents for Property Owners and Contractors:

The second step in property clean-up can start after the Household Hazardous Waste sweep is complete. Property owners can now fill online the Debris Removal Application (eform) or download the Debris Removal Application 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.

You may qualify for an exemption to the debris removal requirements. Please review the Conditional Exemptions from Debris Removal Requirements to see if your property qualifies for an exemption. If you believe your property qualifies, please complete the Debris Removal Exemption Application and submit it to Environmental Health.

All fire debris, including soil sample testing, must be complete by August 1, 2020 to avoid costly abatement proceedings.

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 ehdebrisremoval@sonoma-county.org.

Download Debris Removal Application »

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).

Property owners can contact the California State Licensing Board (call (800) 321-2752) to check if a contractor is licensed and insured.

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.

North Coast Builders Exchange (call (707) 542-2027) also has a list of contractors that can assist in debris removal plans.

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.

Three local disposal locations are accepting Kincade Fire debris. Locations include:

  • Sonoma County Central Landfill, 500 Mecham Road Petaluma, CA 94952
  • Clover Flat Landfill, 4380 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA 94515
  • Redwood Landfill, 8950 Redwood Highway, Novato, CA 94945

Before debris clean up starts, property owners should clearly and visibly mark the location of their septic systems or water well systems associated with their property including the following:

  • Septic tanks
  • Pump tanks
  • Pretreatment units
  • Electrical components
  • Distribution boxes (if location is known)
  • Both the existing primary leach field area and (if known) the expansion leach field areas.
  • Any transmission lines from the septic tanks, pump tanks, pretreatment units to the leach field.
  • The location of any water wells.
  • The location of any water well lines from the water well to the buildings.

This process is a critical measure to help preserve the property’s septic system and to avoid costly replacements or repairs. Even the removal of small amounts of soil from leach fields can result in the area no longer being a feasible leach field. It is imperative that areas be marked and the location information be shared with the debris removal contractor.

If property owners do not know the location of their system, they can come into the Permit Center to look for property records. If there are no records available, customers can be provided with a list of certified contractors in the area who can identify the location of the properties septic system.

You may qualify for an exemption if the only burn debris on a parcel is from non-residential structures less than 120 square feet, fences, and non-structural wood material. No work plan is required as long as the structures did not contain paint, pesticides, herbicides, propane or other similar hazardous substances, and requirements listed in the Conditional Exemption from Sonoma County Debris Removal Requirements are followed. Additional exemptions may be granted on a case by case basis where the structure is greater than 120 square feet and all material contained within the structure was inert.  You may not apply for an exemption if the County has flagged property as potentially containing household hazardous waste (HHW) or asbestos.

Following the October 2019 Kincade wildfire, County Transportation and Public Works (TPW) vegetation specialists and certified arborists, in partnership with Cal Fire and PG&E foresters, are evaluating and removing burned trees that are an imminent threat to road users within the burned areas. The burned trees were assessed to determine the level of damage and risk to public safety and roadways. Trees identified as a risk to public safety and property are marked for removal and categorized as presenting an “Extreme” or “High” risk.

County crews and contractors will remove all fire-damaged trees within the public right-of-way, or within a minimum of four feet of the edge of pavement, that present an imminent risk to public safety and roadways. All trees categorized as “Moderate” risk will be left at this time.

Work crews are expected to complete the hazard tree cutting and mulching by the end of November, with a second pass through the burn area to collect remaining wood debris in the following weeks.

Limited closures with reduced lanes and traffic control on site are possible so that crews can safely and efficiently move through the burn area. Please observe all road restrictions and sign up for road and traffic alerts at sonomacounty.ca.gov/TPW/Roads/.

As property owners begin the process of clean-up and rebuilding following the fires, it is your responsibility to control storm runoff. Property owners and contractors on burned lots and rebuild sites must prevent pollutants, including sediment, from entering storm drains, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.

Wattles and other Best Management Practices (BMPs) materials, such as straw, are available for purchase at various agriculture, garden supply and hardware stores. BMPs are used to keep pollutants from entering storm drains and our natural water bodies like creeks and rivers.

Visit Winter Storm Ready for information and resources about how to be Rain Ready.

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