Wildfire Cleanup Effort Focuses on Ash, Debris Removal

As the state sets its sights on recovering from historic wildfires this year, the Oregon Department of Transportation is taking a lead role in ash and debris removal.

Oregon’s Joint Legislative Emergency Board approved $50 million last week to begin this work in the eight counties affected by wildfires: Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion counties.

The 2020 Labor Day fires were the largest and most expensive disaster in Oregon’s history. Nine Oregonians lost their lives, more than 1 million acres burned and over 5,000 homes and businesses were destroyed.

The state has transitioned from immediate fire response to statewide recovery.

“The level of damage and magnitude of loss to Oregon’s communities cannot be overstated,” ODOT Director Kris Strickler said. “Our collective efforts to rebuild will be long-term, challenging, and will demand strong partnerships at all levels. We can – and will – do this together.”

Preparing to rebuild first requires the clean-up of the ash and debris the fires left behind. Removing household hazardous waste, hazard trees, and other ash and structural debris will be a lengthy and expensive process — but it is already underway.

The removal of household hazardous waste is fully funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Oregon and is already underway in several counties.

ODOT has already begun removal of hazard trees across the state, a process that could take nine months to complete. The estimated timeline for ash and debris cleanup completion is 6-18 months and includes considerations such as weather impacts, property access limitations and geographic scope.

Initial estimates put the debris cleanup tally at over $600 million, including $326 million for ash and debris removal and $295 million to remove damaged trees. The estimate is preliminary and is likely to change. As debris cleanup efforts begin, the true costs of the damage will become clearer.

Property owners need to sign an access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, as soon as possible to allow crews to access and clean up their property. Homeowners who choose to clean up hazardous waste, ash and debris on their own must do so at their own expense.

Removal of household hazardous waste and debris can be an expensive process, costing as much as $75,000. Even with insurance, the cost will reduce the amount of money you can use to rebuild your home.

More information is available online at wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup. To contact ODOT about any and all wildfire debris-related inquiries, email odot.wildfire@odot.state.or.us.

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