Santa Cruz County Fire Recovery

Debris Removal, Re-entry, and Temporary Housing
Environmental Health

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Debris removal from fire damaged property is prohibited until property owners receive a hazard assessment and approval from environmental health authorities.

Property owners, tenants and members of the public should not attempt to remove, dig, sift or evaluate property debris. Fire sites are often toxic and include hazardouse substances such as lead-acid and household batteries; compressed gas cylinders; bulk pesticides, fertilizers, and pool chemicals; paints, thinners, and aerosol cans; asbestos siding, pipe insulation, and tiles; e-waste and more.

Fire-damaged debris will not be accepted at any County waste facility and placement in residential or commercial trash collection bins will result in bins not being accepted by GreenWaste. Removal of hazardous waste must be completed by federal, state and local jurisdictions working under safe handling guidelines. Failure to follow these practices could jeopardize financial assistance and delay the rebuilding process.

The clean-up of fire damaged properties needs to occur in two phases: removal of household hazardous waste (Phase I) and removal of fire-related ash and debris (Phase II). The removal of the household hazardous waste needs to happen first so that the ash, foundation and soil that is removed in Phase II can be taken to a Class III landfill. Hazardous waste cannot be deposited in a Class III landfill.

The county has requested assistance with the debris removal from the state and federal government. On September 3rd, we were informed that they would assist us with Phase I, which will begin on September 28th. We have not received a response yet for assistance for Phase II. Property owners may also choose to hire a private contractor to conduct the debris removal. Before the property owner proceeds with this option, they must receive approval from the Santa Cruz County Environmental Health. This process is also explained in the documents below.

Santa Cruz County Building Inspectors have surveyed the properties in the burn area. If the property has a red tag, that means the structure is not inhabitable and should not be entered. If the property has a yellow tag, it means there is some damage but not a total loss. A yellow tag will have more specific information accompanying it, such as “single family dwelling uninhabitable; ADU safe to enter” or “attached garage severely damaged, do not enter. OK to live in main house".

Fire-damaged items cannot be disposed of either at landfills or in GreenWaste bins.

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