Debris Removal FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for October 2017 Northern California Fires

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for December 2017 Southern California Fires

The following Frequently Asked Questions will help you determine the safest and most effective steps to beginning the debris removal process.

ROEs submitted after the deadline must be reviewed on a case by case basis by the County. Provided a late ROE is submitted for a property in an area not already cleared by USACE, then the late ROE may be approved and the property placed in the debris removal program. The longer the property owner waits to submit the ROE form the less likely they are to be included in the program.

The Consolidated Debris Removal Program has two phases: removal of household hazardous waste and removal of other fire-related debris.
In Phase I, county, state and federal agencies have organized teams of experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the California State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to inspect your property and remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, asbestos siding, and paints.
In Phase II, Cal OES, FEMA and local officials are coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and CalRecycle to execute contracts and conduct fire-related debris removal from your property.

Phase I: Household hazardous waste: Operations are already underway.

Phase II: Debris and ash removal: Contact county officials to get a Right-of-Entry (ROE) which grants government contractors access to your property. Check your county’s website for information on how to obtain the form or visit

Safe sifting through your property will NOT jeopardize your claims for disaster assistance. Property owners who desire to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution and with proper protective gear: eye protection, masks, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Residents should minimize contact with fire debris, which may contain materials that can be hazardous to your health. For more information visit:

Crews have already begun removal of hazardous household waste. Removal of fire debris, other than hazardous household waste, is scheduled to begin by Nov. 1, 2017 for some properties and will continue throughout the fall and winter.

All initial costs will be paid by state and federal agencies. However, if property owners have insurance that specifically covers debris removal, owners must inform local officials, and they may be required to remit that portion of the insurance proceeds that are specifically reserved for debris removal.

Yes. If you decide to remove fire-related debris from your property, you must obtain all the necessary permits and environmental clearances from your local government.

The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during debris operations. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where debris removal operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.

Debris removal teams will mark the property indicating that household hazardous waste has been removed.

This debris removal program is for fire-damaged or destroyed houses, as directed by local government. If you are unsure if your house qualifies for the debris removal program, submit a Right-of-Entry form to your local government for assessment.

Household hazardous waste is waste from houses that poses a threat to public health, animals, or the environment. Hazardous waste includes chemicals that are ignitable, toxic, corrosive and reactive. Examples include pool chemicals, car batteries, antifreeze, used oil filters, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, paint, bleach, and ammunition.

Teams handling hazardous waste will not remove appliances or electronic wastes, such as TV and computer monitors, computer processing units or cell phones. These materials will be removed as part of the overall debris removal process.

Household hazardous waste must be removed without delay to protect the public health and safety. Additionally, hazardous waste could have significant long-term environmental impacts and should not be combined with the waste from the general cleanup that is going to the landfill.
Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents these environmental contaminants from polluting the environment, and protects the workers and the public from exposure during debris removal efforts.
Removal crews are specifically certified to handle household hazardous waste.

Yes. USACE will hire prime contractors who will use local contractors. The prime contractor for the October 2017 wildfires response is Environmental Chemical Corporation. Local contractors can register as subcontractors at the primary contractor websites:

The USACE ACI contractor is required to pay Davis-Bacon or California State prevailing wage, whichever is higher.

Yes. However, to avoid a duplication of benefits provided by the state or federal government, your insurance company may be required to provide payment from your policy that is designated for debris removal.

It depends on the policy that you have. There are generally two types of debris removal coverages in a homeowner’s insurance policy:

Specified Amount: One type of debris removal insurance coverage contains a separate, specific debris clause, typically capped at a percentage of the coverage amounts listed in the policy (for example, 5 percent of the value of a primary structure, other structure, and personal property.)

If you have this type of policy, the county will only collect the specified amount designated in the debris removal clause. You will not owe the county any additional money, even if the actual costs to remove the debris exceed the amount designated in your insurance policy for debris removal.

No Specified Amount: Another type of debris removal insurance policy does not have a specified amount but includes the costs of debris removal in the total proceeds provided for the primary structure, other structure, or personal property.

If you have this type of policy, the county will only attempt to collect insurance proceeds for debris removal after you have rebuilt your home. The county will only collect any money that remains in your insurance policy, if any, after the rebuild. The homeowner will not owe the county any additional money for debris removal.

No. There have been many rumors that if a homeowner participates in the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, the county will take all of the homeowner’s insurance proceeds or the insurance proceed designated to rebuild their home. This is simply not true. The county will only seek reimbursement from the insurance carrier as stated above.

No. The wording in the Right of Entry Form is required by California and Federal law and therefore, the terms cannot be changed.

Generally, no. If the insurance proceeds you received did not include a specified amount for debris removal you will not be responsible for any costs associated with the debris removal. For more information, contact the Department of Insurance.

No. Property owners will retain their previous factored base year value if the restructure is rebuilt in a like or similar manner, regardless of the actual cost of construction. However, any new square footage or extras, such as additional baths, will be added to the base year value at its full market value. For more information go to:

State and federal laws require that you agree not to sue the county, state, or federal government for harm resulting from the debris removal.

The contractor’s Debris Removal Operations Plan includes a Community Air Monitoring (CAM) Program. Three air sampling stations and one weather station will be established, one upwind of the work site, one downwind, and one at the nearest sensitive receptor, such as an inhabited residence, school, nursing home, etc.

Each CAM station will consist of a real-time data-logging monitor to measure particulate concentrations, high-volume and low-volume asbestos and heavy metals. A number of response actions might be taken if certain levels are reached, including implementation of additional ash suppression measures. These measures could include:

  • Increasing pre-wetting time
  • Adding additional water to dusty operations in the form of a mist
  • Limiting drop heights when loading trucks
  • Lowering speed of removal equipment
  • Applying foam or wetting agents

If you have a specified amount for debris removal in your insurance
policy (for example, 5 percent of the value of a primary structure, other
structure, and personal property), you may use your insurance proceeds
first to remove fire related debris that is ineligible for removal under the
program (e.g., swimming pools, patios, trees, etc…). The county will
only collect any money that remains in your insurance policy, if any, after
you have removed ineligible fire related debris.

If you have a policy that includes the costs of debris removal in the total proceeds
provided for the primary structure, other structure, or personal property, you may
use these proceeds to pay for the removal of fire related debris that is ineligible
for removal under the program. The county will only collect any money that
remains in your insurance policy, if any, after the rebuild and removal of
ineligible fire related debris. The homeowner will not owe the county any
additional money for debris removal.

The property owner will be required to substantiate all expenditures.

A Right of Entry (ROE) form gives government contractors permission to access your property and begin debris cleanup. These forms are coordinated between the U.S. Army Corps and the counties.

It is standard business practice for subcontractors to file a preliminary lien notice with the property owner on any work they perform as a way to ensure they preserve their rights in the event they do not get paid. These notices also inform the property owner which contractor did any work on their property. In the case of a federal contract, like the debris removal contracts that USACE issued to AshBritt and ECC, there is a payment and performance bond to ensure all subcontractors/vendors receive payment for the services they perform on a specific property. However, not all subcontractors are familiar with federal contracting and are simply filing preliminary lien notices routinely. Thus, property owners are not financially responsible for work done by sub-contractors under these federal
contracts. If property owners receive a preliminary lien notice, they should attempt to confirm with the sub-contractor filing the preliminary notice that the work was done under one of the federal contracts. If so, payment for this work is covered by the prime contractors payment bonds. USACE has firmly directed our prime contractors to inform their subcontractors that the prime contractor is required to have payment bonds filed with USACE and reassure them that they will get paid for the work done for property owners who have signed an ROE.

Participation in this program requires property owners to forward only proceeds received specifically for the purposes of debris removal to the county, which will then be forwarded to the State. The CalRecycle or Army Corps of Engineers program will have no cost to owners above the amount specified for cleanup in the insurance policy.

USACE FAQ on Debris Removal Operations in Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties (as of 10 Dec 2017)

Fast Facts – Debris Removal FAQs

Fast Facts – Debris Removal FAQs – Español

Fast Facts – Debris Removal For Agricultural and Commercial Structures

Private Debris Removal Guidelines
These are basic guidelines the individual counties may incorporate into their formal private debris removal requirements.

Right of Entry Form