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 – some properties will not require Phase 2.

Initial information about each phase of cleanup is below. More detailed information is still being finalized and this webpage will continue to evolve as additional updates become available.

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.

Phase 1 – Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Sweep

What is Phase 1?

Phase 1 is mandatory for all properties that were included in the state damage assessment report. Phase 1 is the removal of household hazardous waste (HHW) – following an inspection of burned property – for materials that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, and paints.

Who does the Phase 1 work?

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) announced in a recovery town hall on October 7, 2020, that the state will manage Phase 1 HHW Sweeps. The Phase 1 HHW sweeps will be coordinated in conjunction with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and California Environmental Protection Agency. Work will begin when it is safe for workers to identify and remove HHW from the burn footprint.

If you know your property has a locked gate, burned access bridge, or other barrier that may prohibit the State’s contractor from being able to gain entry to your property for Phase 1, please contact the Sonoma County Hazardous Materials Unit at (707) 565-2024, so that we may coordinate access in advance.

Phase 2 – Fire Debris Removal

What is Phase 2?

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 by either Sonoma County Environmental Health or the City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction).

Who does the Phase 2 work?

The County and City have requested the assistance of the State of California with a Phase 2 government-sponsored debris removal program, but at this time, the state has not yet determined if a government-sponsored Phase 2 debris removal program will be available to survivors of the Glass Fire. Once this determination is made, more information will be posted to this webpage and communicated to property owners.

Property owners may move forward with hiring their own properly licensed private contractor to complete the Phase 2 debris removal process after Phase 1 is completed and the appropriate private debris removal permit is obtained from the City of Santa Rosa or County of Sonoma (depending on jurisdiction). All work must be completed pursuant to requirements set by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Environmental Health. Property owners may not do the work themselves unless they possess the required certification/license.

What is the cost of Phase 2?

At this time, a government-sponsored program has not been approved by the State of California.

Property owners who wish to pursue a private contractor to perform Phase 2 debris removal work on their property will bear the costs associated with Phase 2. If you have homeowner’s insurance, debris removal costs may be covered under your policy, and we recommend you consult with your insurance carrier to confirm how much of your policy is dedicated to debris removal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Debris Removal

Search FAQS

Debris removal is broken down into two phases. 

  • Phase 1 is mandatory for all properties that were destroyed in the fire and will be conducted by the government with no cost to property owners. Phase 1 consists of a “household hazardous waste sweep” in which a certified contractor will enter your property and remove all hazardous materials (products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic such as household hazardous waste). 
  • Phase 2 cannot begin before the Phase 1 Household Hazardous Waste Sweep has been completed and you have received approval from Sonoma County Environmental Health to begin the Phase 2 Debris Cleanup program for your property.  The Phase 2 cleanup is the removal of the remainder of debris on your property and will prepare your property for the rebuilding process to begin.

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.

If the property owner or their insurance company need to remove a vehicle they can do so after Household Hazardous Waste removal (Phase 1) 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 Household Hazardous Sweeps (Phase 1) will be performed by the government using certified contractors. For Phase 2 debris removal, 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) 542-2027.

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 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.

Government agency crews and contractors will remove all fire-damaged trees within the public right-of-way that present an imminent risk to public safety and roadways. All trees categorized as “Moderate” risk will be left at this time.

At this time it is unknown whether the State or Federal government will offer such a program. 

We will update this page as soon as we get a definitive answer.

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.

If property owners do not know the location of their system, they can come into Permit Sonoma 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.

No property is exempt from the Household Hazardous Sweeps (Phase 1) Hazardous Waste Sweep. Your property may qualify for an exemption from Phase 2 of debris removal 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.  A conditional exemption approval from the Department of Health Services, Environmental Health is required before any work on your site can begin.  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. You may not apply for an exemption if the County has flagged your property as potentially containing Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) or asbestos.

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

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/.

City of Santa Rosa road closure information can be found at https://srcity.org/3405/Road-Closures.

In some instances, the State or Federal governments may conduct a Phase 2 Debris Removal Program. The government will 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 performing this service, property owners are asked to sign a “Right of Entry” form in which they agree that any insurance proceeds in a property owner’s homeowners insurance policy designated for debris removal will be turned over to the government. Property owners are not required to pay any additional money to the government other than designated debris proceeds in their policies.

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 Rain Ready for more information and resources.

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.

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