Cal OES Debris Removal Team Assists Lahaina Wildfire Recovery on Maui


In a show of interstate solidarity and expertise, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has dispatched a team of wildfire debris removal specialists to aid in the recovery efforts following the devastating Lahaina wildfire on Maui.  

The team, renowned as one of the nation’s best in the debris removal field, deployed to provide vital technical assistance for debris removal in the fire-affected areas of the island.  

Debris removal following a wildfire includes clearing hazardous household waste (like pesticides, paint, batteries or asbestos), charred remnants and damaged materials, with a goal of returning affected properties to residents with a clean bill of health.  

Technical assistance for debris removal is essential in helping communities rebuild and recover quickly following wildfires. The training and technical assistance provided by Cal OES will assist local officials on Maui as they coordinate the deployment of debris removal crews.  

Cal OES debris personnel will help the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency make decisions about which equipment to use and how large of a contract removal crew to bring in. In addition, they’ll help formulate environmentally conscious plans based upon site assessments, and soil and erosion control analysis. 

A photo of Cal O E S debris removal team in Lahaina, Hawaii. They're inspecting the burnt debris and wearing personal protective equipment.

The Cal OES debris removal team inspects impacted areas of the Lahaina wildfire.

Functioning as a bridge between state agencies in California and Hawaii, the debris removal team is enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the recovery process. This collaboration expedites the recovery efforts on Maui while fostering the exchange of knowledge and best practices between the two states. 

The debris removal operation on Maui is currently in Phase 1, which focuses on the meticulous removal of hazardous waste from residential burn sites. This phase could last many weeks, as crews work to ensure thoroughness and prevent further contamination of the environment from chemicals and other potentially dangerous substances.

A burnt-out car in a driveway in Lahaina, Hawaii. Behind it lies remnants of Lahaina, Hawaii.

An impacted home in the Lahaina neighborhood. Typically, all the damaged material on a property will be removed.

California has a proven track record of providing technical assistance and mutual aid to regions beyond its own borders, including Oregon, Montana and Canada, where wildfires pose a recurrent threat.  

As the recovery efforts on Maui continue, the partnership between states exemplifies the united front necessary to overcome the challenges posed by wildfires and their aftermath. 

Read more about California’s wildfire debris removal program.