Clearing the Way for Recovery: Debris Removal for 2020 California Wildfires Reaches Major Milestone


State debris removal officials have returned more than 50 percent of properties participating properties in the State’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program to county officials to begin permitting process for reconstruction.

SACRAMENTO – More than 50 percent of properties throughout the state whose owners enrolled in California’s Statewide Consolidated Debris Removal Program have cleared the entire debris removal process and been returned to county officials to begin the permitting process for reconstruction.  The 2,254 returned properties represent 50.1 percent of the 4,497 properties in California participating in either the full debris removal program or only the hazard tree element.

“Although the road to this wildfire recovery operation has been challenging, the collaboration efforts of dedicated partners at a state, federal, and local level have led to another significant milestone,” said Cal OES Deputy Director of Recovery Operations Ryan Buras. “With over half of the parcels affected by the wildfires returned to its respective counties, we remain motivated and determined to serve the communities that have been most impacted by these devastating wildfires by seeing this program through to completion.”

In 2020, more than 8,000 climate-induced wildfires burned 4.2 million acres of California, destroying more than 5,700 homes. Property owners incur no direct costs for participation in the state-managed cleanup and recovery program, administered by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in collaboration with 25 participating counties.

Major Clearing Work: 98 Percent Complete

As of August 4, 2021, the remains of 2020 wildfire survivors’ homes and property — burned metal, concrete, ash, and contaminated soil — have now been cleared from 98.3 percent of the properties enrolled in California’s statewide Consolidated Debris Removal Program. Most properties still need critical soil testing, erosion control, and hazard tree removal to ensure the lots are safe for families to rebuild.

Wildfire survivors had the option to either use their own contractor or enroll in the state-managed program. Of the 5,991 properties with damage from the 2020 fires, 3,842 signed up to have the remains of their homes and other structures cleared by the state.  An additional 655 property owners signed up to participate in the Hazardous Trees Removal element of the program.

To date, crews have removed eligible debris from 3,775 properties taking part in the full program. 


Steps Left to Complete

Before homeowners can begin rebuilding, cleared properties need additional work including:

  • Separate contractors collect soil samples for verification at a state certified laboratory that they meet state environmental health and safety standards. 
  • Contractors next may install erosion control measures.
  • Certified arborists or professional foresters assess wildfire-damaged trees in danger of falling on the public or public infrastructure for removal by separate contractors.
  • Finally, state officials inspect the property to verify all completed work meets state standards. Debris officials submit a final inspection report to local officials to approve the property for reconstruction.

**Data current as of August 4, 2021, 12 p.m. PST