State officials outline the daunting fire debris removal process in North Bay

- The California Office of Emergency Services this morning gave an overview of the daunting process of removing toxic and hazardous materials from structures destroyed by fires in Northern California counties this month.

The first phase of the process is removing direct threats posed by propane tanks, gas cans, paints, pesticides and herbicides during sweeps of the properties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will perform that task in Sonoma and Napa counties.

The second phase entails the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers physically removing ash and toxic substances from the soil of properties in the two counties.

The process will begin at burned properties near schools, daycare centers and hospitals, then to burned structures that threaten rivers and watersheds.

State officials said removing the enormous amount of debris to dedicated landfills presents a monumental task.

It will take two working days for a team of five to seven people to remove debris from a property and another week to complete six separate lab tests for asbestos and other toxics in soil at the site.

There will be a one- to two-week lag time before erosion control begins. The goal is for the soil to be in pre-fire condition using soil samples from outside the burn area as a background goal, state officials said.

There is no cost estimate yet for the process since it depends on the number of homeowners who opt out of signing a right to enter their property agreement and use a private contractor for the cleanup instead, state officials said.

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