Atlas Peak Debris Removal

ECC, a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, uses an excavator Wednesday morning while sorting debris from the site of a residence on Old Soda Springs Road that was destroyed in the Atlas Fire. The debris is put into manageable piles before removal.

A government cleanup effort of wildfire-burned homes kicked into gear this week in such areas as Atlas Peak and Soda Canyon.

The government’s contractor is working on 18 sites simultaneously, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Luke Burns said on Wednesday. That could rise to 22 sites or more simultaneously by week’s end.

Work crews remove the foundation and haul out debris, Burns said. Each site might take two to three days to clean, and longer for a big job. Property owners will be left with dirt.

“It’s going to be a clean slate and they can get back to rebuilding,” he said.

The Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs fires destroyed more than 500 homes in Napa County, according to Cal Fire. Property owners can either do the cleanup job themselves or let the government do it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is partnering with the Corps of Engineers on the government debris removal program. Property owners pay nothing, though they must assign to the government any insurance proceeds they are due for debris removal.

Work crews by Wednesday had finished cleanup at one site, but this involved an outbuilding. Burns called it a “very small site.”

He expected a bigger job on Atlas Peak Road to be finished soon. Workers had removed 15 truckloads of debris.

Cleanup isn’t done on a first-come, first-serve basis. Burns said there’s no line tied to the order that applications are received. Rather, the contractor looks at issues such as clusters of homes and access and tries to work in the most efficient manner.

“We know people want to move on as quickly as possible,” Burns said.

The government gives property owners a 24- to 48-hour notice before debris removal, Burns said. That allows the owners to be present for the removal, if they wish.

FEMA is aiming to have the cleanup work done by early next year, he said.

The deadline to apply for the government cleanup program is 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9. Go to the county website at www.countyofnapa.org to find the application.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, county officials said 282 owners had applied for the government cleanup program. Another seven had submitted debris-and-ash removal applications for private cleanup.

Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison expected many more government cleanup applications to come in before Thursday’s deadline.

“This is a limited-time opportunity and people need to take advantage of it while it’s happening,” he said.

Ash and debris are tied to the county’s declared public health emergency and need to be cleared as quickly as possible, Morrison said. He sees the government program as a good way to accomplish this goal.

Waste from burned-out homes can wash from the house site into the watershed during the rainy season, a county report said.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.