On Nov. 16 the State of Oregon announced they are offering wildfire debris cleanup for all Oregon homes and businesses with no out-of-pocket cost to the property owner. This includes both household hazardous waste cleanup and removal of ash and other debris.
Clearing a property of ash and other wildfire debris is the first step in rebuilding and recovering. Ash and debris from the wildfires should be considered hazardous to your health, and should only be cleaned by professionals with appropriate training and protective equipment.
Options for Cleaning up Your Property
The State of Oregon is offering wildfire cleanup with no out-of-pocket cost to property owners, including homes, businesses, second homes, and manufactured homes.
- Opt in to the assisted cleanup
If you want cleanup teams to remove hazardous waste, ash, and debris from your property at no cost, you must complete a Right of Entry form with your county. Homeowners will pay no upfront cost and no government agency or contractor working for them will recoup any insurance money unless it is designated for debris or left over after rebuilding your home. Property owners may opt in to household hazardous waste only, or both types of cleanup.
- Opt out of the assisted cleanup
If you opt out, you will pay for and complete cleanup on your own. Doing the cleanup on your own will cost more than using the state and county-led program, and could reduce the amount of insurance money you have available to rebuild your home. If you opt out of the public cleanup process, Oregon’s Department of Environmental quality discourages property owners from performing cleanup themselves, and encourages the use of qualified contractors. Find more information about requirements and best practices if you choose to do cleanup yourself.
Regardless of whether you opt into the state-led program or pursue your own cleanup efforts, there are two main steps of cleanup. The first is to remove household hazardous waste (HHW). This includes propane tanks, pesticides, batteries, herbicides, solvents, paints and large pieces of asbestos.
Once HHW is cleared, ash and other debris, including structural debris (e.g. chimneys), vehicles, damaged trees, and contaminated soil can be removed. This may take several different contractors to safely remove and dispose of these materials.
Household hazardous waste crews from the EPA began removal on Clackamas County properties in early November, and have completed cleanup for over 60 properties so far. Track your progress online. If you would like to sign up for cleanup, the state is still accepting Right-of-Entry Permit Forms to grant state contractors access to your property. Even if you have already begun cleanup, you can sign up for the state to assist with the work that remains—be sure to use the form that allows all wildfire debris cleanup, not just household hazardous waste.
Step 2 of the state-led cleanup process will remove remaining debris, including ash, vehicles, trees that threaten structures, structural debris from any building burned in the fire, and foundation removal (if desired by the property owner). Crews will also remove contaminated soil in this step. Step 2 cleanup is expected to begin in December 2020, and take 6-18 months to complete state-wide. The expectation for this phase of cleanup is to leave properties ready for rebuilding. For more information, go to 2020 Oregon Wildfire Recovery – Wildfire Cleanup and Debris Removal.
The above link will take you to a webpage managed by a consultant that is managing household hazardous waste removal for the state of Oregon. There is no current deadline for submitting a right of entry form. However, we encourage you to submit your form quickly so cleanup work can begin as soon as possible on your property.
EPA helped protect Oregon rivers, creeks and streams from fire impacts
Work complete for Wildfire Recovery Step 1: removal of household hazardous waste
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed Step 1 of the state’s recovery from the fires: the removal of household hazardous waste at residential and commercial properties in eight counties. Since October 17, the agency’s crews have cleared over 1500 properties, which is required before Step 2 — the removal of ash and other debris in preparation for rebuilding.
EPA crews completed their clean up operations in Clackamas County. Property owners who have not already signed and returned a “Right-of-Entry” form or by calling their county or the “Right of Entry” hotline at 682-800-5737.
Property owners can call EPA’s hotline at 541-225-5549 with questions about household hazardous waste removal at their property and about the cleanup process. Callers can also use the hotline to give more details about their property that will help speed the removal work and prepare their property for the next cleanup phase. The hotline provides information in both English and Spanish. Property owners can see the status of their property and learn more about EPA’s progress at EPA’s 2020 Oregon Fires Recovery website.
The Oregon Debris Management Task Force and its contractors will be conducting the larger and more complex Step 2 cleanup process.
Fraud and Scams
Several fraud schemes and scams have already been reported in fire-affected communities, including phony inspections and bogus cleanup offers by uncertified operators. EPA will never ask for personal financial information like Social Security or bank account numbers and is conducting its household hazardous waste removal at no cost to property owners.
For the latest on EPA cleanup operations, please visit EPA’s 2020 Oregon Fires Recovery website.
Here are four short videos on EPA’s 2020 Oregon Wildfires Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Cleanup that visually capture the process:
EPA Step 1 Cleanup Overview
EPA crews are removing household hazardous waste (HHW) from burned properties affected by the 2020 Oregon wildfires.
EPA Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Cleanup
In Oregon communities affected by the 2020 wildfires, EPA crews are assessing and removing HHW including chemicals, pesticides, compressed cylinders, petroleum products, and ammunition.
EPA Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Staging Areas
All household hazardous waste (HHW) that is collected is brought to a staging area such as this one. Here materials will be consolidated based on waste characterization, placed into appropriate containers, and shipped to approved disposal facilities.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Marked for Safe Disposal
Following the removal of household hazardous waste (HHW), some containers may be left behind, such as these marked with a white “X.” The “X” indicates that the contents have been voided and these containers may now be scrapped.
Right of Entry and Cleanup Information
EPA Household Hazardous Waste Hotline
The EPA has launched a hotline for wildfire-affected property owners with questions about Step I household hazardous waste removal. The hotline will offer service in both English and Spanish.
Properly disposing of your ash and debris will help to ensure your property is safe for you and your family as well as protect your investment. State and federal agencies are helping county and local emergency management agencies to assess hazards and remove ash, debris and hazardous substances from wildfire areas.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recommends that you not disturb ash or debris on your property until after it has been assessed by hazardous materials response professionals. There may be hazards such as asbestos fibers, toxic chemicals and electrical or structural hazards on your property.
⚠ USE CAUTION AROUND ASH AND DEBRIS
Wildfire ash is like the ash that collects in your fireplace, but it may contain traces of cancer-causing chemicals. Visible pieces of ash are big enough to be kept out of the lungs by the body’s natural defenses in the nose and throat. But small particles stirred up by cleaning can irritate the skin, nose, and throat, and might trigger an attack for people who have asthma.
Before Disturbing Any Significant Debris
- Contact your insurance company about your loss and inquire about the best way to contract with a professional asbestos removal company.
- Presuming that debris from wildfires contains asbestos, a highly dangerous material, review Oregon DEQ’s asbestos guidelines. All ash and debris is considered hazardous and contaminated and should be handled as such.
- Currently, Hillsboro Landfill and Coffin Butte Landfill are able to accept this material with some conditions. Go to their websites for details and have your contractor check with them to help you decide best next steps.
Cleaning Up Your House and Yard
- Be aware of all electrical hazards — including those from downed power lines or other electrical sources — as well as hazards from unstable walking surfaces and sharp objects buried in the ash.
- Wear sturdy footwear, eye goggles, a properly fitted N95 or KN95 respirator and heavy-duty work gloves. If possible, wear disposable coveralls and dispose of them after use. If you don’t wear disposable coveralls, make sure to have a clean set of clothes to change into after working or rummaging in debris and ashes.
- Do not let children near debris or in an area where they might breathe airborne particles left from the fire.
- Septic tanks that have been exposed to fire could collapse without warning posing a serious risk to health and safety. Septic systems can be severely damaged by operating vehicles or equipment over them. For safety and to avoid costly system damage, you should locate and rope off the area where your septic system is located before debris removal begins. This includes marking off both the tank and drainfield to prevent unnecessary impacts to the area. If you are unsure where the septic system is on your property, contact the Clackamas County Onsite Wastewater program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-742-4740 for assistance finding available records of the system installation.”
Cleaning Up Ash
- Ash must be adequately wetted to control dust that can become airborne.
- When cleaning with water, ensure water containing ash is not washed into the stormwater system or into surface waters. Water containing ash can cause water quality issues.
- Use a damp cloth to wipe ash from household surfaces, outdoor furniture, and children’s toys.
- Wash the family pets.
- Wash fruits and vegetables from your garden or fruit trees before eating them.
- Take your vehicles to a car wash.
- Gently sweep, then wet mop, hard outdoor surfaces like patios or decks. Avoid vacuums that don’t have a HEPA filter, so you don’t put ash back into the air.
- Avoid getting ash into the air as much as possible. Do not use leaf blowers or do other things that will put ash back up into the air.