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Yes. The debris resulting from the CZU Complex Fire contains hazardous material in the ash of the burned structures and must be properly removed. Debris removal has two phases: removal of hazardous waste (Phase I) and removal of remaining hazardous materials and other fire-related debris and ash (Phase II). After Phase II is complete, either via the Government Sponsored Debris Removal Program or the Private Contractor option, the county will issue a clearance and rebuilding can begin. The Planning Department will not issue rebuilding plans unless a Phase II clearance has been obtained.

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The clean-up of fire damaged properties needs to occur in two phases: removal of household hazardous waste (Phase I) and removal of fire-related ash and debris (Phase II). The removal of the household hazardous waste needs to happen first so that the ash, foundation and soil that is removed in Phase II can be taken to a Class III landfill. Hazardous waste cannot be deposited in a Class III landfill.

The county has requested assistance with the debris removal from the state and federal government. On Tuesday, September 29, 2020 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) started Phase I activities. USEPA finished their activities in mid-November. Phase II Government Sponsored Removal Activities will begin December 1, 2020. In order to participate, you must file a Right of Entry form to the County. Click here for more information. The deadline for filing Right of Entry forms with the county is December 15, 2020.

Property owners may also choose to hire a private contractor to conduct the required debris removal. Before the property owner proceeds with this option, the owner must receive approval from the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health (See http://www.santacruzcounty.us/FireRecovery/DebrisRemoval.aspx).

After Phase II is complete, either via the Government Sponsored Debris Removal Program or the Private Contractor option, the County will issue a clearance and rebuilding can begin.

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Phase I:

The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and their contractors inspect for and remove household hazardous waste on all properties with structures which have burned. There will be no charge to the property owner for this activity.

Household hazardous waste is waste from houses that poses a threat to public health, animals, or the environment. Hazardous waste includes chemicals that are ignitable, toxic, corrosive, and reactive. Examples include pool chemicals, car batteries, cathode ray tubes from electronic equipment, antifreeze, used oil filters, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, paint, bleach, and ammunition. Property owners should not attempt to remove or evaluate household hazardous waste. Contact with these materials can be toxic, result in long term health effects and/ or cancer.

The USEPA started Phase I removal on September 28th. The USEPA completed Phase I in mid-November.

Phase II:

To enroll in the Government Sponsored Debris Removal Program, the property owner will need to file a Right of Entry form with Santa Cruz County Environmental Health. The Right of Entry form is available here. Right of Entry form deadline submission is December 15, 2020.

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If property owners elect not to participate in the state/federal government debris removal program (if it is available), the property owners are still required to remediate their properties and remove the fire-related debris at their own expense in accordance with the County’s Debris Removal Requirements. The work must be completed in a manner that ensures the protection of public health and safety.

The property owners will not be reimbursed with public funds for the remediation of debris removal. Documents related to this are available here.

Property owners are required to choose a contractor with the proper California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) licensing and certifications to perform the ash and debris cleanup work, including hazardous material and asbestos removal.

The CSLB website has information to assist property owners with requirements: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/Resources/GuidesandPublications/DebrisRemovalFacts.pdf
You can verify a contractor's licensing at the CSLB website: https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx

It is recommended that property owners verify that contractors and consultants have adequate insurance and that the owner is included as an additional insured under the contractor’s insurance policy for the cleanup work.

The order of actions needed to remove debris outside the state/federal government debris removal program is:

1) Property owner will hire a debris removal contractor or indicate they will do it themselves (must be qualified to conduct hazardous materials cleanup) .

2) Property owner will submit a Property Owner Application to Hire A Private Contractor for Fire Debris Removal to Environmental Health.

3) The contractor will submit a Debris Removal Plan to Environmental Health. The Debris Removal Plan will need to contain protocols for handling and disposal of debris, and ash, including any remaining HHW or asbestos, and the method for soils tested after cleanup is complete.

4) Once the application and plan are approved by Environmental Health, the debris removal can proceed.

5) Once complete, the property owner must provide a Final Report including documentation from the solid waste facility where the debris was disposed of, ash sampling results for asbestos, asbestos disposal verification (if applicable), debris materials recycled (concrete, metal, etc.), the post-soil removal sampling results, and storm water protection methods implemented to safeguard Environmental Health.

6) EH will issue a Debris Removal Clearance if the documentation supports that debris removal was conducted properly and according to the plan.

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Safe sifting through your property will NOT jeopardize your claims for disaster assistance. Per the health officer order, do not disturb the ash in a manner that will make the cleanup harder or larger. We ask that you wait until the Household Hazardous waste removal has occurred, so it is safer for you to do so.

Property owners who desire to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution, disturbing as little of the ash as possible, and with proper protective gear including eye protection, masks, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Residents should minimize contact with fire debris, which may contain materials that can be hazardous to your health. For more information visit:

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Phase I is paid for by the state and federal government using emergency relief funds.

Phase II. The state/federal government debris removal program will be paid by state and federal agencies with no direct cost to owners. If property owners have insurance that specifically covers debris removal, or where there are additional insurance proceeds remaining after rebuilding, owners must inform local officials, and they may be required to remit a portion of the insurance proceeds to the County to avoid double benefits.

Phase II cleanup can also be conducted by a private contractor and then the cost is borne by the property owner.

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Follow the progress of Phase II cleanup via this map.

Removal of fire debris, other than hazardous household waste, is scheduled to begin in early December 2020. There are a number of factors that determine when your lot will be scheduled for debris removal. The local government sets priorities within the community, such as properties that are near public use facilities and areas with sensitive receptors, such as schools, parks, and nursing homes. Secondly, areas that are a threat to the environment will be prioritized, such as properties near creeks and other bodies of water. To maximize efficiency, the State will schedule the properties as best they can in groups to maximize efficiency and overall productivity to restore the communities as quickly as possible.

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Yes, if they request to be present; however, exclusion zones will be established surrounding the work area to ensure safety and property owners may not enter these zones during debris removal. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during debris operations. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where debris removal operations are underway.

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Contractors are required to comply with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding safety and the environment. Whenever there is a conflict between codes or regulations, the most stringent regulation is applied.

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Teams handling hazardous waste will not remove appliances or electronic wastes such as TV and computer monitors, computer processing units or cell phones. These materials will be removed as part of the Phase II ash and debris removal operation.

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Removal crews are specifically certified to handle household hazardous waste. Household hazardous waste must be removed promptly by qualified operators to protect the public health and safety. Hazardous waste could have significant long-term environmental impacts. Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents these potential contaminants from polluting the environment and protects the workers and the public from exposure during debris removal operations. Also, if the hazardous waste is not removed, the ash debris cannot go to the non-hazardous landfill.

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Crews scrape 3 – 6” of soil from the ash footprint during Phase 2 debris removal activities. Soil samples are then collected and sent to a state-approved lab for analysis. The results are compared against background samples taken from areas in the vicinity that are not directly impacted by fire to ensure that all contaminated ash was removed. If necessary, more soil is removed and the site is retested until it comes back clear of contaminants or it is determined the contents of the soil are consistent with the background levels of similar soil on a property. All soil testing results are returned to the State’s Debris Task Force for final review and validation.

Soil testing is also required in the private contractor option for cleanup.

Erosion control is conducted as a part of the state/federal government debris removal program and is required as part of the private option.

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Proper debris removal is required of:

  • fire-damaged or destroyed houses
  • all auxiliary structures larger than 120 square feet which were fire damaged or destroyed
  • auxiliary structures less than 120 square feet that contained hazardous materials.

Auxiliary structures under 120 square feet which did not contain hazardous material are exempt from needing to be cleaned up. A property owner needs to complete a form indicating which structures are exempt from debris cleanup. Click here for more information on this process.

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Yes, so long as the ash footprint is not disturbed, these activities can occur after Phase I. For more information on methods to protect the watershed, click here.

Insurance

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All upfront costs will be paid by state and federal agencies. However, if property owners have homeowner’s insurance covering debris removal, owners must inform local officials by indicating that coverage on their Right of Entry form. Homeowners will be required to remit that portion of their insurance proceeds specifically reserved for debris.

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Yes. However, to avoid a duplication of benefits provided by the state or federal government, your insurance company will be required to provide payment from your policy designated for debris removal to the county.

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It depends on the policy that you have. There are generally two types of debris removal coverages in a homeowner's insurance policy:

Specified Amount:
If your homeowner’s insurance policy contains a separate, debris-specific clause, the local government will only collect the specified amount designated in the debris removal clause. These clauses are typically capped at a percentage of the coverage amounts listed in the policy (for example, five percent of the value of a primary structure, other structure, and personal property). You will not owe the local government any additional money, even if the actual costs to remove the debris exceeded the amount designated in your insurance policy for debris removal. The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed all fire related debris.

No Specified Amount:
If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, the local government will only collect insurance proceeds for debris removal after you have rebuilt your home. The local government will only collect any available insurance proceeds, if any, after the rebuild. If there are no remaining funds, the homeowner will not owe the local government any additional money for debris removal.

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No. The local government will only seek reimbursement from the insurance carrier as stated in the previous answer. The local government will not attempt to collect any insurance proceeds designated for rebuilding.

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Yes. If you have a specified amount for debris removal in your insurance policy, you may use your insurance proceeds to remove fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program (e.g., swimming pools, patios, trees, etc.). The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire-related debris.

If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, you may use these proceeds to pay for the removal of fire-related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program. The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire- related debris.

In either scenario, the property owner will be required to substantiate all expenditures.

Contracting

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The State's Debris Task Force will choose a prime contractor who will hire subcontractors. The State's Debris Task Force will make every effort to encourage the prime contractor to use local subcontractors.

If you have any questions regarding the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, send them to debrisquestions@caloes.ca.gov or visit our website at wildfirerecovery.org.

Trees

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Yes, the debris removal contractor will remove trees that are a threat to the safety of the debris removal crews while working on your property and trees that are dead or likely to die within five years as a result of the fire, as determined by a certified arborist to present a threat to public health and safety on the public Right of Way (ROW), i.e. roadways, and/or public infrastructure, fire hydrants, water meters, etc.

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Yes. Whether or not you have a burned structure, if you believe you have trees on your property that are dead or likely to die within five years as a result of the fire, you should submit a Right of Entry Form to your county. The State will use a certified arborist to determine whether the trees on your property present a threat to the public Right of Way (ROW), i.e. roadways, and/or public infrastructure, fire hydrants, water meters, etc.

Phase I

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HHW includes everyday products like paints, cleaners, solvents, oils, batteries, herbicides, and pesticides, which often contain hazardous ingredients. HHW field crews will remove items suspected of containing asbestos if it is easy to identify, but the property will not be cleared of asbestos until Phase 2. Pressurized fuel cylinders can also pose a threat and will be removed. Following a fire, these products require special handling and disposal, especially if their containers are compromised.

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EPA will survey each property, then HHW field crews will remove the materials identified during the survey. Some empty containers and tanks will be marked with white paint and left as debris for collection in Phase II of the debris removal process. For more information on Phase II, see Santa Cruz County’s website at https://www.santacruzcounty.us/FireRecovery.aspx.

Once HHW is removed and Phase I is completed on your property, you may move to Phase II of debris removal once you obtain approval from the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health Division. Empty containers, marked with white paint by the USEPA, will be removed during Phase II.

Empty containers, marked with white paint, will be picked up during Phase II.

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This work will clear the way for the removal of ash and debris, allowing the rebuilding process to begin. An Executive Order issued September 24 by the Governor of California provides USEPA the authority to access properties to protect public health, animals and the environment from these threats.

Phase 1 is being conducted at no cost to property owners.

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No. USEPA will only remove hazardous waste. If firearms or suspected remains are found, USEPA will immediately stop work and contact the County Sheriff. No other items will be removed.

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You can search for your address on the Phase 1 Status map: Click Here.

If your property is on the map, it will be surveyed. If your property is not on the map, but you have fire-damaged or destroyed buildings (even small structures), call (415) 793-8794 and USEPA will add your property to the list for being surveyed, assessed, and cleaned up.

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EPA crews have posted a sign on each property when the HHW removal (or Phase 1) is complete. Completed properties are also indicated on the Phase 1 Status map.

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You can search for your address on the Phase 1 Status map: Click Here.

There are several factors that impact the schedule of the USEPA field crews. For example, they may not work in an area when other field crews are present, to decrease traffic and congestion.

Weather and daylight also impact the schedule. Crews are moving between different zones. For more information on which zones the HHW field crews are working in today, Click Here

In addition, HHW field crews cannot work around dangerous trees or terrain, unstable remnant structures, or other unsafe conditions. Those properties will be addressed during Phase II.