Oregon offering free wildfire cleanup


No-cost ash, debris pickup available in county

SALEM — In a Monday news release, the state of Oregon Debris Management Task Force announced the state will provide no-cost wildfire ash and debris removal for residential and commercial properties in Lincoln County and seven additional counties affected by the September wildfires that wreaked havoc across the state.

Businesses, mobile home parks, second residences and other structures are included in the program, which will require no upfront payment from owners for any cleanup work. The debris management team states that no government entity, whether state, federal or government-contracted employees, will seek payment from any insurance policy unless it’s specifically intended for debris removal or removal of remaining materials after the structure is rebuilt.

In addition to residents of Lincoln County victimized by the Echo Mountain Complex fire, the free cleanup is available to fire victims in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Linn and Marion counties.

“Our mission is to safely clear the ash and debris as quickly as possible, and leave Oregonians with a clean site so they can rebuild,” Kris Strickler, Oregon Department of Transportation director, said in the release. “This will take time, strong partnerships and a lot of hard work, but we’re already well on our way. I encourage every Oregonian who lost a home or business in the wildfires to sign a right of entry form with their county, if they haven’t already, to help keep this important work moving forward.” 

To participate in the cleanup program, property owners must complete and submit a right of entry form, which allows cleanup crews access to the property. To submit a right of entry form and for more information, visit wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup or call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700.

Once at the site of damaged properties, cleanup workers will remove ash and structural debris, potentially hazardous trees, concrete foundations, burned vehicles and other materials.

The two-step process involved in wildfire damage cleanup first includes assessment and removal of household hazardous waste that is potentially harmful to people, the area’s wildlife habitat and the environment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the EPA’s 2020 Oregon Fires Recovery webpage (https://bit.ly/35FuyQw) on Tuesday morning, the EPA was nearly done with hazardous waste removal in the Otis/Rose Lodge area.

The Oregon Debris Management Task Force’s news release says the state is currently hiring contractors to carry out the second step of the process — ash and debris removal. That work is scheduled to begin next month, and the task force is currently working with local governments to determine each fire-damaged area’s highest priorities for cleanup work. 

Due to factors such as weather impacts, limitations on property access and the large area to cover, statewide ash and debris removal is estimated to take between six and 18 months to complete. The timeline should become more focused once contractors are hired.

The state has transitioned from fire response to statewide recovery mode. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the state of Oregon for a portion of the cleanup costs, and the state will fund the remaining portion. The news release states that initial estimates have statewide debris cleanup costing more than $600 million, including $326 million for ash and debris removal and $295 million for damaged tree removal.

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