YUBA COUNTY (CBS13) — Cleanup of the Cascade Fire in Yuba County has begun after the wildfire destroyed 143 homes in Loma Rica.
The cleanup is happening in two phases. The first phase involves getting rid of any and all hazardous material at the sites of the burned down homes. It's the first step in the rebuilding process.
Covered in masks and suits from head to toe, crews begin the first phase of fire cleanup.
Yuba County Environmental Health Supervisor Gary Cantwell said, "We're coming through and removing all hazardous waste from the property."
From charred paint cans and propane tanks to car batteries and welding equipment, anything toxic to the environment was tossed out.
"It contaminates the landfills that the regular waste is going into," said Cantwell.
So far, crews have combed through the ash of 45 homes burned in the Cascade Fire. Yuba County Environmental Health and the California Department of Toxic Substance Control are working together. It's a dangerous job that takes professional skill.
"Because of the nature of how the debris falls on the properties, we don't always get to look at every single part of the property. We do the best we can," said Ivan Rodriguez, an environmental scientist.
Items that are not hazardous are marked with white, and those that are painted pink. Properties where asbestos is present are taped off. The entire clean-up process was explained to residents Wednesday night during a community meeting.
Yuba County Director of Environmental Health Clark Pickell said, "I think they're very happy. I think it put them at ease and I think that they're ready to move on."
The hazardous waste will be taken out of state. Some will be recycled and the rest burned. The cleanup is free for residents and will take about three weeks, as one by one, properties are prepped for phase two.
Phase two is the final phase when crews will remove the ash and debris and what's left of the structures themselves. Yuba County says it will work with a property owner's insurance, so there should be no cost to the homeowner for that cleanup either, but the homeowner can choose to hire a private company themselves.
County officials say it will take them about 60 days to cleanup all debris from the Cascade Fire.