2020 Wildfire Cleanup Assistance

March , 2021

In 2020, wildfires in California burned 4.2 million acres, damaging or destroying more than 10,400 structures. Wildfires also burned over a million acres and thousands of structures in Oregon, including 2,200 homes. Contracted by EQM, Global provided personnel and equipment to assist federal and local agencies with Phase I cleanup efforts in the two states, including locating, identifying and removing of Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) from properties damaged in the fires. HHW includes products that can catch fire, react, or explode, or that are corrosive or toxic. Following a fire, these products require special handling and disposal, particularly if their containers are compromised.

Four Global foremen headed the Emergency and Rapid Response Services (ERRS) Team, consisting of environmental technicians from Tongue Point Job Corp and Washington State Maritime Cooperative (WSMC). The workers searched designated properties for materials including paints, cleaners, solvents, oils, batteries, and gas/propane cylinders; items were inventoried, consolidated and prepared for pickup. These efforts not only reduced potential threats to public health and safety, but allowed other agencies to safely begin Phase II removing solid waste, debris and ash in the affected areas. The CA teams focused on targets in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Mateo counties, completing assessment of more than 1,000 properties.

Along with the many challenges presented by covering a large and remote area after a major natural disaster, the response was made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. Level C PPE was worn for most sites; when lesser PPE requirements were needed N-95 masks were worn at all times. Crews were tested for COVID twice a week and monitoring was conducted daily prior to leaving for any jobsite.

Additional Coverage & Information:
CA Wildfire Cleanup – EPA Region 9: EPA OSC Website
OR Wildfire Cleanup – EPA Region 10: EPA OSC Website