Debris Removal after the 2020 Glass Fire

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Debris Removal for properties affected by the Glass Fire

The 2020 Glass Fire has had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. The County and City of Santa Rosa are preparing to support the community in debris removal. This page will continue to be updated as information becomes available.

Clearing properties includes two phases:

Phase 1: Household Hazardous Waste Sweep – completed by the State of California

Phase 2: Fire Debris Removal

Phase 2 is the removal of the remaining structural ash and debris as well as soil testing to ensure the site is clean, safe for rebuilding, and free of potentially leached toxins. Phase 2 cleanup can only initiate after the Phase 1 HHW Sweep is complete and the property owner has been given proper authorization to begin Phase 2.

There are two options for Phase 2. Property owners may choose to enter into the public Right of Entry (ROE) program in which contractors working with the state do the debris removal on your property. The second option is the private debris removal option in which property owners clean up their property with the use of contractors and appropriately certified personnel to meet the Debris Removal Requirements.

In the meantime, community members should refrain from entering the burn area footprint without personal protective equipment, and do not begin cleanup activities until proper authorization is provided. Hazardous debris after a wildfire can be toxic, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts throughout the community.

Debris removal status map

Once the State’s debris removal program begins, property owners will be able to use this online map to search their property by address to view its current  status (i.e. submitted ROE form, soil sample pending, ready for rebuild, etc.). Parcels will be color-coded to indicate different stages of the process. The map will identify the status of properties and indicates if a property owner is participating in the state-run or the private cleanup option utilizing a licensed contractor.

Debris Removal Webinar for Contractors

Frequently Asked Questions about Debris Removal

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General FAQS

Debris removal is broken down into two phases. 

  • Phase 1 is the removal of household hazardous waste (HHW) for materials that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, propane tanks, and paints. Phase 1 is mandatory for all properties that were included in the state damage assessment report and will be coordinated in conjunction with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), and California Department of Toxic Substance Controls (Cal DTSC).
  • Phase 2 is the removal of the remaining structural ash and debris as well as soil testing to ensure the site is clean, safe for rebuilding, and free of potentially leached toxins. Phase 2 cleanup can only begin after the Phase 1 HHW Sweep is complete and the property owner has authorization to begin Phase 2 by either Sonoma County Environmental Health or the City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction). Some properties may be eligible to qualify for an exemption for Phase 2 – see FAQ regarding “exemptions” and the “exemption approval process”.

A public (government-sponsored) Phase 2 debris removal program will be available as an option for property owners of eligible destroyed residential structures. As an alternative option, property owners may also hire a properly licensed contractor and follow the private Phase 2 removal process. More information on the public Phase 2 program will be available soon.

If a property owner or their insurance company must remove a burned vehicle from their property, they can do so after the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep (Phase 1) has been completed on their property. There may be an opportunity for property/vehicle owners to remove undamaged vehicles from the property. However, great care must be exercised in order to avoid any disturbance to the ash footprint. For example, removal of a fire damaged vehicle from a fire damaged/destroyed garage or carport is not recommended as this would likely spread contaminants and could result in disqualification from the Phase 2 government-sponsored program. This includes all burned vehicles. 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 public (government-sponsored) Phase 2 debris removal program will include vehicle removal.

As property owners begin the process of clean-up and rebuilding following the fires, it is the responsibility of the property owner 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 Rain Ready for more information and resources.

Do Not Disturb Ash: The County of Sonoma and City of Santa Rosa placed signs on each fire-damaged/destroyed property to caution property owners not to dig, dispose, or remove debris or ash from these properties. 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. Additionally, digging, piling materials up, or moving large pieces on or off the ash footprint could jeopardize government financial and debris removal assistance. Small scale sifting through ashes to locate remaining personal items will not impact your ability to get financial assistance but is not recommended for health reasons. The signs should be left in place on the property until proper authorization has been given by the County/City (depending on jurisdiction) for debris removal activities to begin.

Damage Status: Color-coded signs were installed to all structures/properties within the burn areas that were inspected by the County of Sonoma or City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction). The signs indicate the habitability of a structure. Yellow, red, or orange signs may only be removed by a County or City building official once work repairs have been completed. The structure habitability/safety evaluation status map may be viewed on the County/City structure safety maps online:

City of Santa Rosa property map  |  County of Sonoma property map

City/County Hazardous Tree Removal in Public Right of Way in Fire-Impacted Areas
Cal-Trans, County of Sonoma, and City of Santa Rosa crews and/or their contractors are assessing fire-damaged trees within the public right-of-way to evaluate their level of damage and risk to public safety and the right of way. Burned trees that present an “imminent” risk to public safety and roadways are being removed now. Right-of-way trees categorized as presenting a “moderate” risk will be left at this time. Each agency is assessing/ removing the right-of-way trees located within their respective jurisdictions.

The City of Santa Rosa has also removed fire-damaged trees from Open Space areas in the city limit burn areas.

PG&E Hazardous Tree Removal in Fire-Impacted Areas
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) contract crews are conducting inspections to identify and address hazardous trees along power lines that may have been damaged by the fire, this includes work that may impact residents/ private property.

Per PG&E, customers can expect the following:

  • Hazardous trees are being marked to identify them for work. A tree marked P1 (Priority 1) is fire damaged and highly likely to pose a threat to PG&E facilities and will be removed as quickly as possible. A tree marked P2 (Priority 2) is fire damaged but not highly likely to pose an imminent threat to PG&E facilities but do require eventual removal to mitigate the threat. PG&E has indicated P2 tree removal will be completed by April 2021.
  • PG&E will reach out to notify property owners who may be impacted by this work.
  • Wood from felled trees/pruning cannot be removed by PG&E since trees are considered assets and property that legally belong to the property owner. However, at the property owner’s request, PG&E will chip smaller limbs (4 inched in diameter or less) and can spread the chips on site.
  • In some areas, tree crews will lop and scatter wood debris in accordance with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Forest Practice Rules to avoid excessive vegetation build-up.

Customers with questions or concerns about this work should contact PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 or visit PGE.com/Trees.

Hazardous Tree Removal on Private Property
In the City of Santa Rosa, for removing damaged trees or trees suspected to be damaged on private property, property owners should follow the City’s guidance.

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Phase 1 Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Sweeps FAQS

The State’s contractor will conduct 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 Phase 2 debris removal process by someone certified to handle household hazardous waste.

Although the state’s contractor will be conducting the initial sweep, any property owners who use private contractors to complete the Phase 2 structural debris removal will be required to have a Certified Asbestos Consultant clear their property for asbestos before work can commence.

No.  Removal of materials during the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep will be limited. Fire debris removal for the purpose of clean-up and rebuild is a separate process outlined in the Phase 2 information.

There is no cost to property owners for the Phase 1 Household Hazardous Waste Sweep.

Per the County of Sonoma urgency ordinance, Phase 1 is mandatory for all properties that were identified in the State’s damage assessment report for the Glass Fire.

Owners are not required to be present for the Phase 1 Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Sweep. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where HHW Sweep operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.

Once all parcel information is collected, the State’s completion will be tracked on an interactive map in which property owners can check on the status of their parcel.

No. The State’s Household Hazardous Waste contractors will be licensed and insured, and their insurance will cover any injuries to their employees or damage to equipment that occurs during the Household Hazardous Waste removal process.

On September 29, 2020, the Sonoma County Health Officer, Dr. Sundari R. Mase, proclaimed a health emergency due to the hazardous waste on burned properties. Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) 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 State’s contractor will implement an emergency sweep of burned properties to remove hazardous waste that threatens the community and the environment. HHW removal will be at no cost to impacted property owners.

HHW 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 HHW and will be wearing personal protective equipment.

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Phase 2 Debris Removal FAQS

No. On September 29, 2020 the Sonoma County Health Officer, Dr. Sundari R. Mase issued an order advising community members to not enter the burn footprint of structures 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. Additionally, digging, piling materials up, or moving large pieces of debris on or off the ash footprint could jeopardize financial and debris removal assistance if done without proper authority or approvals.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has confirmed that a public (government-sponsored) Phase 2 debris removal program will be available as an option for property owners of eligible destroyed residential structures. More information on Phase 2 will be available soon.

Cal OES or FEMA (depending on who is overseeing the program) would contract with debris haulers to remove the structural debris from your parcel, and conduct asbestos and soil tests to ensure any residual toxins from the burn are removed. In exchange for the government agency performing this service, property owners will be required to sign a “Right of Entry” form (“ROE”). The ROE grants the government agency, and its contractors, permission to enter onto a private property and inspect, cut, test, remove, and clear wildfire-generated debris of whatever nature including but not limited to burned or partially burned structures, ash, concrete foundations, contaminated soil, vehicles, trailers, waste, hazard trees or other debris from the Property (“Debris and Hazard Tree Removal”).  CalOES or FEMA will determine which hazardous trees, materials and items on the Property are eligible for removal. The property owner will be responsible for removing any items deemed not eligible for the government-sponsored debris removal program.

In exchange for the debris removal performed by CalOES or FEMA, the property owner agrees that any insurance proceeds in a property owner’s homeowners insurance policy designated for debris removal will be collected by the government agency managing the debris removal process. Property owners are not required to pay any additional money to the government other than designated debris proceeds in their policies. In no event shall the amount of insurance proceeds paid to CalOES or FEMA exceed the costs charged by its contractor(s).

In the event a property needs additional debris removal after the CalOES or FEMA contractor has completed the removal under the ROE, all expenses incurred by a property owner for such additional removal will be paid first, and the remainder (if any) will be turned over to CalOES or FEMA.

More information on Phase 2 will be available soon.

If a property owner does not want to participate in the government-sponsored public debris removal program, a property owner can contract with a private contractor to perform the debris removal and conduct the soil sampling. The contractor and property owner must apply for and obtain approval for a private debris removal permit from the County or City (depending on jurisdiction), prior to initiating Phase 2 work.

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

The Northern Engineering Contractors Association can provide you a list of contractors that can assist in developing your debris removal plan, including soil assessment and testing.  Their telephone number is (707) 546-5500.

North Coast Builders Exchange also has a list of contractors that can assist in debris removal plans.  Their telephone number is 707-542-9502.

Yes, soil sampling will be required as part of Phase 2 and prior to your property being ready to rebuild. 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 Glass 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.

After the Household Hazardous Sweeps (Phase 1) have been conducted, and before debris clean up starts (Phase 2), property owners or the property contractor 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. Heavy equipment operated by debris removal contractors could damage unmarked well and septic infrastructure.

If property owners do not know the location of their system, contact the County of Sonoma permit center at 707-565-1788 (for residents of the unincorporated area) or the City of Santa Rosa permit center at 707-543-4649 (for residents within the Santa Rosa city limits) for assistance with locating 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.

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Standing Homes and HHW FAQS

Generally, yes. For Phase 1, exclusion zones will be set up as a safety precaution, but it is not anticipated that they will impact standing residences.

All properties identified in the State’s damage assessment report WILL BE included in Phase 1 Household Hazardous Sweeps. View map to see if your property is included.

A property may be approved for an exemption from Phase 2 debris removal if the only burned debris on the property is from:

  • A fence
  • Non-structural wood material
  • Non-residential structure(s) that combined total less than 120 square feet
  • Approval is received from Sonoma County Environmental Health or the City of Santa Rosa (jurisdiction specific)

A property falling within the above listed circumstances may apply to the Sonoma County Environmental Health or the City of Santa Rosa to receive an exemption from the Phase 2 debris removal process and follow the exemption requirements.

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 is inert.

For residents of the unincorporated County area, call Sonoma County Environmental Health if you have questions about an exemption at 707-565-6700 and press “2” when prompted to make a selection.

For residents of the City of Santa Rosa, call 707-543-4649 or email rebuild@srcity.org.

A property owner must seek conditional exemption approval from Sonoma County Environmental Health Services or the City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction) before any cleanup work on the site can begin. The property owner must also follow ALL requirements and cleanup protocols listed in the “Conditional Exemption.”

Sonoma County Environmental Health Conditional Exemption.  Call Sonoma County Environmental Health if you have questions about requesting an exemption at 707-565-6700 and press “2” when prompted to make a selection.

For residents of the City of Santa Rosa, call 707-543-4649 or email rebuild@srcity.org.

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 (CIH) 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.

For residents of the City of Santa Rosa, you may follow the City’s guidance document – Steps for Assessing and Repairing Your Standing Home

Residents are encouraged to contact their insurance carrier.  Your insurance may be able to contact your neighbor’s carrier and coordinate needs.

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