I went to the Kincade Fire Community Meeting on Saturday in Alexander Valley. The Community Hall was completely full. James Gore was in charge and he did a great job not only expressing our compassion for those that lost property, but to all our Community that had impacts. James also did a nice job taking the mic around the room and having folks with resources introduce themselves and inform the fire victims how much help is out there. I introduced myself and the ECA and let everyone know we have contractors, suppliers, and testing firms that have lots of experience in the last few years with fire victims, debris cleanup, soils testing and even rebuilding. The County has listed the ECA as a Resource for Homeowners and Fire Victims to call for help with testing, cleanup and reconstruction. Just so you ECA Members know, as I field these calls, I guide the Homeowner/victim to our website, and I urge them to go through the entire list of ECA
James introduced Johannes Hoervetz (Head of the Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works) and Johannes explained the top few items they are dealing with right now:
- Tree Removal: County has contracts with several tree companies and are falling trees that are dangerous to the public and the public roads. The County is not doing tree removal on private property. The County is having the trees felled, and brushed as much as possible, then will haul the logs off as they can get to them. They are still catching up from 2017 fire damaged trees. The County is going to remove the trees and treat the stumps so they will die on their own. Some hydroseeding will be done around the disturbed stump areas by the County.
- Soil erosion: County has contracted with one or two big hydroseeding companies and will be hydroseeding right behind the tree falling operation. Surprisingly, to me at least, the companies that did site surveys of the Kincade burn footprint, did not see the burnt area as an emergency to the waterways at this point. They also see minimal risk of major landslides. Some wattles will be placed, but mostly hydroseeding is the erosion control for now.
- Phase 1 Hazardous sweeping is going on right now. There were 173 homes destroyed and another 70 structures destroyed (barns, outbuildings, shops, etc.). The destruction did not meet the criteria for FEMA or the Corps or CALOES to step in (they only do that when it is decided there is too much for local resources to handle on their own). If you recall in 2017, the EPA did the initial hazardous sweep assessment of the properties, but we will not be seeing the EPA doing that on the Kincade Fire. The County has hired two firms that are doing it and they have enough teams out there where they should be complete by Thanksgiving. Homeowners can assist this process if they have gate codes needed by calling in to 707-565-6700 and letting the County have the gate code. These teams remove small propane bottles, gas cans, paint cans, weapons and ammo, and other small hazardous items they find in their “sweep” of the property. If you see white stakes out there, that means they have done the sweep or are in the process of doing that property. Once the initial sweep has been completed, the teams will report back to the County and the Environmental Health Department will track the properties that have been cleared. There is no cost for this Phase 1 cleanup to the homeowner.
- For those of us familiar with the process from 2017 for debris cleanup and rebuilding, the process is much the same:
- a) Phase 1 household haz waste sweep certified by County as completed
- b) Homeowner or GC comes in to 625 5th Street and fills out application for debris removal (no charge by County
- Application needs to ID the licensed asbestos firm that will do a site survey for asbestos. Once clear, go to next step. If not clear, site needs to be cleared legally and properly of asbestos.
- On debris remove application, ID the specialty contractor that will do the debris cleanup.
iii. ID the specialty firm that will test the soils within the footprint of burned area and get the background tests outside the burned footprint for final clearances. Typically, this is a soils engineer that works with a lab.
- Sample “Work Plans” are available, and a work plan needs to be a part of the application. Things like which landfill will you be utilizing? To date, Clover Landfill in Calistoga and Central Landfill in Cotati have the necessary waivers to take the debris. Just like in 2017, concrete/metal/ash debris should be separated. I believe Stony Point Rock Quarry is taking concrete rubble with no tip fee for Kincade Fire Victims. There may be others but that is one ECA Member who has provided me with that info.
- Because there is no FEMA and Corps on this project, concrete foundations need to be analyzed by a structural engineer if the homeowner wants to save them. Remember, all FEMA work required concrete foundations to go, and this caused great problems in the “scraping process” for achieving testing results that were within 20% of the “background” levels required. The other change this time is that the background levels to be used for final soils compliance in the burned footprint, are not regional averages but they are tested on the property just outside the burned area so the results should be much more attainable due to the specificity of the area of the debris pile.
- A word about safety, hazwoper certification, etc. This was of great concern to us in 2017 and info was all over the place. I made certain I spoke with Christine Sokol (Head of the County Environmental Health Department) so I would give you the right information:
Somebody must have 40-hour hazwoper certification on the debris cleanup crew. The idea is that person is boots on the ground and can see if there is a concentration of potentially toxic material that needs to be tested. This person is obligated to call for additional testing as needed-if no toxics are found, the debris removal continues with PPE up to the debris removal contractor’s discretion. If toxic material is found, that is when a hazardous license is needed by the GC to come in and deal with the toxic materials. This is a tough license to get, several of our guys have it, but it is far more difficult and exclusive than the 40-hour hazwoper certification. All loads must be “burrito wrapped” like they were in 2017 to be received at the landfill.
Finally, a word about time deadlines. The County just came out with the rule that debris cleanup permits shall be applied for by January 31, 2020. All Cleanup should be completed and signed off by the County by May 31, 2020.
I hope this helps. As calls come in to the ECA for “who they should use”, I hope you all understand that I cannot recommend any specific contractor or testing agency. We have the folks that can handle this as members of the ECA, and I will provide that list of Members in good standing to the homeowners as they call in. They are being encouraged to “shop around” so you guys know the drill.
I will say, there were several questions from the crowd of fire victims who just wanted someone to “guide them”. I offered
myself at no cost to be a resource that could help these victims but only through the debris cleanup phase. After that, I will send their questions over to Keith Woods at the Builders Exchange.
If anybody needs phone numbers for the County offices, the main one you will be dealing with is 707-565-6700. That is County Environmental Health and they administer the debris cleanup permits.
That’s All Folks