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Major Progress Made In Debris Removal From Hill, Woolsey Brush Fires; Efforts Two-Thirds Complete

Contractors in a state program work on debris removal from a home destroyed by the November, 2018 Wooolsey brush fire

In what would be an otherwise quiet Ventura County neighborhood, a huge excavator is chewing through a giant pile of debris. It’s dropping scoop after scoop of rubble into a parade of waiting dump trucks.

The rubble is the remains of one of the more than 1500 structures destroyed by the Hill and Woolsey fires in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

Greg Renick with the State Office of Emergency Services says that Cal OES and CalRecycle are overseeing what’s known as the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, a voluntary cleanup program handling hundreds of properties from the two fires. The idea is to help overwhelmed fire victims start on the path towards rebuilding.

The program handles the hiring of contractors, and oversees the cleanup with no upfront costs to property owners. If properties are eligible, program officials work directly with insurance company to collect covered costs for debris removal.

It’s not as simple as bringing in a bulldozer and clearing a site. Specialized crews have to go in first to remove potentially dangerous toxic wastes from the site.

Unfortunately, the program is all too familiar with families in the region. It helped clean up hundreds of properties destroyed by the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Renick says as we near the six month anniversary of the Hill and Woolsey Fires, there’s been a remarkable amount of cleanup. The project is about two thirds of the way complete.

As of April 21st, 270,000 tons of fire debris has been removed in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. While most of it is from LA County, some 31,000 tons is from Ventura County.

The goal is to complete debris removal by the end of June.

While an excavator is sitting on a big, ugly pile of debris in an Oak Park neighborhood now, it will be gone in a few days, and the land will be a smooth, clean lot next to homes which survived the Woolsey Fire. The signs of the fire will be gone, and the site will be set for rebuilding.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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