Opt-In Debris Removal Program Deadline is January 28th
On November 12th, 2018, the County of Los Angeles issued a Declaration of a Local Health Emergency and Order Prohibiting the Endangerment of the Community through the Unsafe Removal, Transport and Disposal of Fire Debris citing “the potential for widespread toxic exposures and threats to public health and the environment exists in the aftermath of a major wildfire disaster, and debris and ash from residential structure fires contain hazardous substances that can result in adverse health impacts to the public”.
Additionally the order states: “No removal of fire debris resulting from the Woolsey fire and concurrent fires in Los Angeles County shall occur from properties without a hazardous materials inspection conducted either by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or California Department of Toxic Substances Control or the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Unified Program Agency. The term “removal of fire debris” as used in this order includes all cleanup of fire debris, but it does not include the removal of personal property from residential sites.”
Opt-in to State Debris Removal Program by Jan. 28. Sign up for Local Debris Removal by Jan. 28. Deadline to complete debris removal is March 15. If not completed by March 15, CA state will remove fire debris at owner’s expense per the City of Malibu.
Initially, local governmental agencies inspect properties and remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, herbicide, pesticide, propane tanks, asbestos siding, and paints. This Phase 1 debris removal is automatic and includes both residential and commercial properties that have been destroyed by the fire.
In Phase 2, depending on whether you decide to go with the government backed program, or a private contractor, fire related debris is removed from the property. It is important to understand what the Cal OES (government-backed program) includes and what it does not include:
If you have homeowners’ insurance, you likely have additional coverage for debris removal. The Government backed program will take an assignment of your insurance benefits. Because the government-backed program does not typically remove all damaged property, many homeowners find the need to hire additional contractors to assist them with their extra debris removal needs. However, if the government program uses all of the available insurance benefits, you may find it difficult to pay for the additional debris removal.
Using a privately licensed debris removal contractor may provide the following benefits: 1) control over the timeline of removal; 2) an opportunity to negotiate a bid that includes removal of all debris that needs to be removed; and 3) a competitively priced bid that stays within the available insurance benefits. It is important to conduct necessary research to ensure the contractor you retain is properly licensed, bonded, and insured.
The most important thing to keep in mind before beginning any debris removal is to document your losses with photographs. Documenting your property loss before debris removal will provide you with the evidence necessary to support your insurance claims or claims you may have against third parties responsible for starting the fire that damaged or destroyed your property.
Another reason to delay debris removal is to give experts you may retain to assist you with your insurance claim or litigation the opportunity to assess your property before fire-damaged debris is removed. Experts are in a better position to assess the full nature of your losses (and therefore substantiate the true economic value of your losses) if they can evaluate your property before debris is removed.