Fire Survivor Reminds Others of Importance of Signing Right-of-Entry Form
EL DORADO COUNTY – As we look to the 2022 wildfire season, it’s hard not to look at the work done by the state in El Dorado County to help fire survivors.
As part of the effort to ensure survivors have what they need to recover, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) offers a no-cost to the homeowner program to remove these charred fire remnants. In partnership with California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and local officials, property owners can sign up for this two-step process known as the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program.
“The 2021 wildfire season was one for the record books, so we’re proud of the work the state has done to ensure property owners in El Dorado County can recover and rebuild after such devastating loss,” said Ryan Buras, Cal OES Deputy Director of Recovery.
Jim Ellsworth lost his family cabin near Echo Summit to the 2021 Caldor Fire.
The Ellsworth family had the cabin for more than 50 years with three different generations growing up there.
Now, what remains is a blank slate, with a backdrop frozen in time, charred hillsides.
Of the properties damaged by the Caldor Fire, more than 600 signed up to have the remains of their homes and other structures cleared by the state.
Cal OES worked with county officials and community members, like Ellsworth to participate in this no-cost program. To allow crews to remove some of the more substantial structural debris, property owners must sign a right-of-entry (ROE) form to allow workers access onsite.
After signing the ROE, crews got to work on his property.
“The ROE was the way to go for sure,” Ellsworth shared. “They explained that they come in and clean up then they do a scrape down to test the soil, to look for contaminants. The information was very accurate, it wasn’t sugar-coated.”
The family has a primary residence in Applegate where Ellsworth lives with his wife, but they plan to rebuild the family cabin.
“The whole experience of this clean-up, working with the people with boots on the ground, to the people in the office, has been excellent,” Ellsworth said. “If I knew then what I know now, as soon as the fire came, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign the ROE. Where do I sign? Let’s get going. Because our experience was so great.”
Most recently in El Dorado, the federal government finally approved for the state to conduct debris removal of cabins on U.S. Forest Service land. Work will start once those ROEs are signed. In total, nearly 1,900 properties statewide are part of the program that includes a site assessment, asbestos abatement, soil sampling, erosion control and tree removal.
What remains now at Ellsworth’s cabin a blank slate, a piece of property that can start anew for future generations.
Learn more about the state’s debris removal progress from the 2021 wildfires here.