State Officials Report Progress in Removing Wildfire Debris


SACRAMENTO – Despite the recent inclement weather in areas affected by this year’s fires, state debris officials report that crews have made significant progress in removing wildfire debris from properties whose owners have chosen to participate in California’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program.

Under the program, administered by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), in collaboration with county officials, participating property owners incur no direct costs.

To date, crews have removed more than 168,000 tons of burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil from properties in 12 counties whose owners enrolled in the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program after this year’s wildfires.

The 168,020 tons of eligible debris removed to date includes 104,679 tons of ash and debris; 32,939 tons of contaminated soil; 3,427 tons of burned metal; and 26,975 tons of burned concrete.

For the safety of crews on the ground, debris removal officials have placed a temporary pause on operations until the storms pass and it is safe to resume operations, including properly sorting, excavating and transporting debris via large haul trucks through rural communities.

So far, crews have completed the removal of eligible debris from 753 properties.  The 664 cleared properties represent 47 percent of the 1,606 properties participating in the full debris removal program.  Another 407 properties in those counties are participating in the hazardous trees only element of the program.

Property owners opted into the program by submitting a Right-of-Entry form (ROE) to their county, which allows the state to begin work on their property and incur no direct costs for the removal of burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil from their properties.

The Program is also now available to property owners with losses from the Hopkins Fire in Mendocino County, the Washington Fire in Tuolumne County, the Windy Fire in Tulare County, and the French Fire in Kern County.  The deadline for submitting of ROEs for these counties is January 15, 2022.  Property owners should speak with their county government to learn more about the program.

Property owners should speak with their county government to learn more about the program.  Information for each county is below:

California’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program Stats

Location Full ROEs Hazard Tree Only ROEs Total Eligible Trees  
Alpine County 6 0 1,318
El Dorado County 599 165 11,646
Lake County 68 2 38
Lassen County 41 2 60
Mendocino County 12 0 0  
Nevada County 47 5 8
Placer County 43 5 166
Plumas County 635 222 10,707
Shasta 2 0 0  
Siskiyou County 58 1 0
Tehama 22 4 0  
Trinity County 65 1 246
Tuolumne 8 0 0    
Statewide 1,606 407 24,189  


Property owners cannot start rebuilding until fire debris is removed from their properties and soil samples taken from the property meet state environmental health and safety standards.

Property owners also can do the work themselves through a licensed, private contractor, but the work must meet the same state standards as the State Program. If work is started by the property owner or contractor, they become ineligible for the State Program.

State debris removal officials remind property owners that only fire-generated debris such as burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil is eligible for cleanup.   Unburned refrigerators or other appliances and any debris not generated by the wildfires are ineligible.

Debris officials also stress that participating owners must avoid disturbing the footprint of the destroyed structure and should not remove any debris themselves, other than small valuables.   Property owners recovering valuables should wear personal protective equipment and take appropriate precautions.  Any debris removal work done by property owners will result in their disqualification from the program.

Work Completed to Date:

 Location Site Assessments Complete Asbestos Assessments Complete Asbestos Abatements Complete Debris Removal Complete  
Alpine County 5 5 1 5
El Dorado County 569 544 136 354
Lake County 67 66 42 64
Lassen County 25 29 10 10
Mendocino County 0 0 0 0  
Nevada County 47 47 18 37
Placer County 43 43 10 41
Plumas County 556 568 280 222
Shasta County 0 0 0 0  
Siskiyou County 45 51 16 9
Tehama County 13 13 4 2  
Trinity County 43 54 8 9
Tuolumne County 0 0 0 0    
Statewide 1,413 1,420 525 753  

Data as of 1:40 p.m. on December 23, 2021

Steps Left to Complete

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

  • Separate contractors collect soil samples for verification at a 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.

Property owners can track progress on the Debris Operations Dashboard for the 2021 statewide wildfires. The dashboard is updated every hour and provides users with the ability to search by county or address.

About the California Consolidated Debris Removal Program:

This Program has two phases:

  • In Phase I, local government, state and federal agencies have organized teams of experts and contractors to inspect the property and assess, make safe, and/or remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, herbicides, pesticides, propane tanks, asbestos siding, and paints. Phase I is automatic and includes all residential properties that have been destroyed by the fires.
  • In Phase II, local, state and federal officials will coordinate to conduct fire-related debris removal from the property elected to participate in the State Program by signing a Right-of-Entry Form.

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