FAQs for Household Hazardous Waste & Fire Debris Removal Cleanup

  1. General Questions About Cleanup
  2. Hazardous Waste Sweeps (Phase 1)
  3. State Debris Removal Option (Phase 2)
  4. Private Debris Removal Option (Phase 2)
  5. Standing Homes & HHW/ Debris Removal
  6. Damaged Hazardous Tree Removal

General Questions

What are the stages of debris removal cleanup?

Debris removal is broken down into two phases:

Phase 1 is the removal of household hazardous waste (HHW) for materials that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, propane tanks, and paints. Phase 1 is mandatory for all properties that were included in the state damage assessment report and will be coordinated in conjunction with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), and California Department of Toxic Substance Controls (Cal DTSC). 

Phase 2 is the removal of the remaining structural ash and debris as well as soil testing to ensure the site is clean, safe for rebuilding, and free of potentially leached toxins. Phase 2 cleanup can only begin after the Phase 1 HHW Sweep is complete and the property owner has authorization to begin Phase 2 by either Sonoma County Environmental Health or the City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction). Some properties may be eligible to qualify for an exemption for Phase 2.

A state-sponsored Phase 2 debris removal program (the Consolidated Debris Removal Program) is available as an option for property owners of eligible damaged or destroyed residential structures -- review the Phase 2 Consolidated Debris Removal Program Eligibility Chart.

As an alternative option, property owners may also hire a properly licensed contractor and follow the private Phase 2 debris removal process which must be permitted by the City of Santa Rosa. 

Who placed the signs on my destroyed/damaged property? 

Do Not Disturb Ash: The County of Sonoma and City of Santa Rosa placed signs on each fire-damaged/destroyed property to caution property owners not to dig, dispose, or remove debris or ash from these properties. Hazardous debris after a wildfire can expose residents to toxic materials, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts throughout the community. Additionally, digging, piling materials up, or moving large pieces on or off the ash footprint could jeopardize government financial and debris removal assistance. Small scale sifting through ashes to locate remaining personal items will not impact your ability to get financial assistance but is not recommended for health reasons. The signs should be left in place on the property until proper authorization has been given by the County/City (depending on jurisdiction) for debris removal activities to begin.

Damage Status: Color-coded signs were installed to all structures/properties within the burn areas that were inspected by the County of Sonoma or City of Santa Rosa (depending on jurisdiction). The signs indicate the habitability of a structure. Yellow, red, or orange signs may only be removed by a City building official once work repairs have been completed. The structure habitability/safety evaluation status map may be viewed on the City structure safety map online:  City of Santa Rosa property map 

When can my destroyed vehicle be removed?

If a property owner or their insurance company must remove a burned vehicle from their property, they can do so after the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep (Phase 1) has been completed on their property. There may be an opportunity for property/vehicle owners to remove undamaged vehicles from the property. However, great care must be exercised in order to avoid any disturbance to the ash footprint. For example, removal of a fire damaged vehicle from a fire damaged/destroyed garage or carport is not recommended as this would likely spread contaminants and could result in disqualification from the Phase 2 government-sponsored program. This includes all burned vehicles. Extreme caution should be taken to not disturb the ash footprint. Vehicles must be disposed of in accordance with state and local requirements (e.g. county abatement process and at an appropriate landfill). The state-sponsored Phase 2 debris removal program will include vehicle removal.

What are property owner responsibilities for protecting ash and debris runoff?

As property owners begin the process of clean-up and rebuilding following the fires, it is the responsibility of the property owner to control storm runoff. Property owners and contractors on burned lots and rebuild sites must prevent pollutants, including sediment, from entering storm drains, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.

Wattles and other Best Management Practices (BMPs) materials, such as straw, are available for purchase at various agriculture, garden supply, and hardware stores. BMPs are used to keep pollutants from entering storm drains and our natural water bodies like creeks and rivers.

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