Before cleaning up following a wildfire:

  1. Start a list of damaged belongings, document damage with photographs, and contact your insurance provider.
  2. Decide whether to (a) participate in a government-run debris removal program, which requires signing a right-of-entry form; (b) hire a private contractor for debris removal at your expense; or (c) conduct debris cleanup yourself.

Key considerations for determining which approach to use include:

  • Utilizing a government-run debris removal program will result in no initial out-of-pocket expenses for homeowners, whereas using a private contractor will result in large expense, which may be completely or partially covered by homeowners’ insurance policies.
  • Government-run debris removal programs often utilize a two-phase approach (for an example, visit: Sonoma County Recovers
    • Phase I removes household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health (e.g., batteries, asbestos siding, paints). Phase I is required for all residential properties participating in the program.
    • Phase II removes debris and conducts property clean-up work. This includes removal of all burnt debris, foundations, hazardous trees, and contaminated soil to ensure the site is safe for building. Participation in the government run debris removal program is encouraged but optional.
  • Government-run debris removal programs strive to get the work completed quickly, reducing impacts from fall storm events to surface water and groundwater resources.
  • Use of government-run programs and private contractors prevent homeowners from being exposed to toxic materials during the debris removal process.
  • It is likely that work done by a private contractor or the homeowner will be required to meet or exceed the standards set by local, state and federal agencies.
  • Phase II of the government-run debris removal program generally includes removal of the house’s foundation.