Wildfire Household Hazardous Waste FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated October 19, 2020

General Information about Consolidated Debris Removal (Phase I Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and Phase II Debris and Ash Removal)

The magnitude of the 2020 wildfires has greatly impacted Napa County. State and Federal agencies have been called in to provide additional resources for responding to the disaster.  As Napa County moves into the recovery phase from the 2020 Wildfires, the safe and appropriate removal of household hazardous waste (HHW) and debris and ash is a County priority. The improper handling and disposal of hazardous material may impact you, the environment, and the general public health. A local public health emergency has been declared. As a result, HHW must be removed from burned properties.  

Debris and ash from residential and commercial fires contain hazardous materials, created through the burning of synthetic and toxic materials. Household products such as gasoline, cleaning products, pesticides, freon, lead, asbestos, and other chemicals may have been stored in homes, garages, or sheds that burned in the fire.  These materials can be present in the ash and soil following a fire. Exposures can occur by sifting through ash and debris, causing ash to become airborne and inhaled or ingested. 

What is the Consolidated Debris Removal Program?

The Consolidated Debris Removal Program has two phases: Phase I, the removal of household hazardous waste and Phase II, the removal of other remaining fire-related debris. 

What does Phase I entail?

Phase I is the mandatory inspection and removal process of hazardous wastes from all burned properties before the removal of structural debris and ash.  The local public health declaration allows for a government agency to enter properties to assess and remove hazardous waste, and conduct assessments to ensure hazards are mitigated. County, state and federal agencies organize teams of experts 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, herbicides, pesticides, propane tanks, asbestos siding, and paints. You do not need to do anything to have household hazardous waste (HHW) removed from your property.   

What does Phase II entail?

Phase II is the removal of structural debris and ash from a property once Phase I is complete.  There are generally two options for Phase II debris and ash removal; a government option and a private option.  

The government option is generally completed by CalOES and CalRecycle working for and under the direction of FEMA.  This option requires submittal of the Right of Entry (ROE) document.  The government option is done at no cost to the property owner. However, if owners have fire debris removal insurance they are required to assign that portion of the insurance proceeds to the County to cover the cost of debris removal.

The private option allows owners or their qualified contractors to remove debris and ash. To choose this option, after Phase I is complete property owners will submit a Debris and Ash Removal (DAR) Application and Plan and must comply with all the requirements contained therein. For structures built before 1990, owners must first have the property assessed by a Certified Asbestos Abatement Consultant. Any asbestos identified by the consultant must be removed by a licensed Asbestos Abatement Contractor. An asbestos survey/removal report must be provided prior to the acceptance of a DAR application and Plan. Private work completed under an approved plan shall be at property owners’ expense. There will be no subsidy through local, State or Federal government.

During Phase I, will we need to be there, or can we be there, during this process?

Owners are not required to be present for the Household Hazardous Waste Sweep. The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during HHW Sweep. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where HHW Sweep operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.

Can I be sued by the government agency or contractor that is removing Household Hazardous Waste from my property?

No. Household Hazardous Waste contractors will be licensed and insured, and their insurance will cover any injuries or damage to equipment that occurs during the Household Hazardous Waste removal process. 

How will I know if Phase I is complete on my property?

For the Hennessey Fire, the State Department of Toxic Substances Control should post a notice on your property that Phase I is complete. DTSC also has an interactive map that can be accessed here: DTSC Map for LNU Lightning Complex HHW Phase I Progress.

For the Glass Fire, as soon as information on a Phase I is available, this site will be updated with status information.  

If I have a locked gate or other issues with access on my property, what should I do?

Please provide the information below by contacting Planning, Building and Environmental Services (PBES) at (707) 299-1350 during normal business hours or by email at [email protected] to provide your name, property address, email, phone number, and information related to access on your property (e.g. locked gate, etc.). You can also provide your property, access, and contact information online at: Property Owner Contact Information Form

I have debris removal insurance or plan to finance my own debris removal. Will I be allowed to conduct cleanup on my own?

Yes. See question 2 above under private option.  

Are burned electronics and appliances (white goods) included in the household hazardous waste cleanup?

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

Why can't my contractor remove household hazardous waste as part of the general clean up?

Household hazardous waste must be assessed and removed by DTSC to protect public health and safety. This is an emergency protective measure. Hazardous waste could have significant long-term environmental impacts and should not be combined with the waste from the general clean-up 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 and bulk asbestos containing materials.

Is there still a danger with the fire debris and ash even after the household hazardous waste has been removed?

Yes, there is still a danger as fire debris and ash may contain hazardous substances like heavy metals and asbestos fibers.

Will all burned trees be removed within the right-of-way inside the burn area?

Government agency crews and contractors will remove fire damaged trees within the public right-of-way that present an imminent risk to public safety and roadways.  

How should we prepare our property for rain? 

The post-fire landscape is especially susceptible to stormwater runoff-related hazards such as landslides, debris flow, flooding, and rockfall. Fire destroys vegetation and root systems that provide stability to the soil. Fire damage may also create hydrophobic soils, which could concentrate runoff into slopes that may already be prone to failure. It is the property owner’s responsibility to control stormwater runoff from their property. Property owners and contractors on burned lots and rebuild sites must take action to prevent pollutants, including sediment, from entering storm drains, creeks, rivers, and wetlands. 

Property owners should evaluate their property for potential hazard areas and install erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices (BMPs) as required. The Napa County Debris and Ash Removal Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan will help you evaluate your property and choose BMPs. BMP materials such as wattles, mulch, and silt fencing, are available for purchase at various agriculture, garden supply and hardware stores. BMPs are used to minimize erosion and control sediment to keep pollutants from entering storm drains and our natural water bodies like creeks and rivers. 

Visit Napa County’s Watershed Recovery page for more information and resources.