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Wildfire Cleanup

Wildfire Cleanup

Wildfire Cleanup is a Two-Step Process

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners for fast, efficient and safe cleanup of the wildfires that devastated Oregon in summer 2020.

The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort. The group is called the Oregon Wildfire Debris Management Task Force.

Property owners who participate in the state-led cleanup will not pay any money up front for debris removal on their property.*


Step 1 Cleanup

The state and EPA cleared hazardous waste dangerous to the public. Work for this step was completed in early December 2020.

Learn More

Step 2 Cleanup

State-hired contractors are removing hazard trees, and ash and debris. Work began in December 2020, and it will take 6-18 months to complete.

Learn More


Questions about wildfire cleanup? Call our wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700 or email questions to odot.wildfire@odot.state.or.us.

*Property owners will pay no upfront cost if they are participating in the state-led cleanup program. If your insurance policy specifically designates funds for cleanup and you do not use them, or if there are insurance funds left over after you have rebuilt your home or business, the state will ask for those funds as reimbursement. This would happen after the entire cleanup process is completed. Learn more about insurance recoup below in the FAQ section.

Sign up for Step 2

You can still sign up for the cleanup

Property owners must sign and submit an access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, which allows Step 2 cleanup crews onto their property.

All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry Form

If you submitted a Right of Entry form for Step 1 only and now want to participate in Step 2, you must sign the All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form for your county.

If you signed the All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form, you do not need to submit another form for Step 2.

If you’re unsure about the status of your Right of Entry form, call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700.

Already signed up?

Thank you! But we need additional information about your property. Complete the online questionnaire below to send us that info. To access the questionnaire, you must use the access number from the letter the state sent you about the cleanup process. This number helps us verify your identity, and keep your information confidential. Letters were mailed to property owners the week of Dec. 13, 2020.

Private Property Debris Removal Questionnaire

If you signed up but did not receive a letter from us about the cleanup, or lost your letter, call our wildfire debris cleanup hotline for help: 503-934-1700.

Visit the Step 2 cleanup progress page to look up the cleanup status for your property. See cleanup progress by county, photos and videos of work done so far, and more.


Opt Out of Step 2

Participating in Step 2 cleanup is voluntary, but we recommend it. Cleanup can be dangerous, time consuming and expensive. It may reduce the amount of insurance money you have available to rebuild your home.

If you decide to do cleanup yourself you must:


Step 2 FAQs

Step 2 work began in December 2020, and it's estimated this work will take 6 to 18 months to complete for the entire state. This range is dependent on weather, property access limitations and the large area to be covered. The Wildfire Debris Removal Task Force will provide more clarity on timing as they bring more contractors on board throughout and January 2021. ​
No, these are two separate processes. FEMA Individual Assistance is an important additional resource, but you do not need to apply or be approved for FEMA assistance before signing your All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form to allow cleanup on your property.   ​
When the state-led cleanup is complete, the state will issue the participating property owner a notice stating debris has been removed, soil has been tested, and the Right of Entry is no longer in effect.​

​​While the state or their contractors may contact you by phone or email about the cleanup process or your property, they will never ask you for money up front, or ask to do testing before cleanup work begins.

If you are concerned that the person contacting you is a fraudster, do not give them personal information. Hang up the phone or do not reply to their email. Call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline – 503-934-1700 -- and confirm that the call or email really came from the state or their contractors.

For more information on avoiding scams and fraud, visit the Oregon Department of Justice's webpage on avoiding wildfire scams.​

Yes. To opt in, you first must sign your county's All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form to allow cleanup crews onto your property. Second, you must submit Private Property Debris Removal Questionnaire, which will give us additional info about your property, allowing crews to work quickly and safely. See the Step 2 participation section above for more info.

If you've used insurance money for debris cleanup that's OK. The government will take into account work you've already completed before recouping insurance funds designated for debris.

If you have insurance questions, contact Oregon's Insurance Commission Consumer Advocate Hotline: 888-877-4894. We also recommend that you keep all receipts for any cleanup-related costs you pay for on your own. 


Homes & mobile homes, businesses, structures, vehicles, trees and other property features are eligible for Step 2 cleanup. Click your preferred language for a PDF of the full list:

Note about vehicles: if you have a burned vehicle on your property, you should reach out to your insurance company and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to report the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) before cleanup teams arrive. This notification is an important part of getting the vehicle removed from the property.

 

Go to Oregon DMV’s Wildfire Information webpage to learn how to report vehicles destroyed by wildlife. 


​Some owners indicated on their PPDR questionnaire that they’d like to keep their concrete foundation. Existing footings, slabs, and foundation systems in fire-destroyed buildings should not be and/or not typically permitted to be re-used.

However, on-site evaluation by Task Force crews may determine that a foundation was damaged by the sustained and intense heat of wildfires, and is unsafe to rebuild on.

The effects of intense heat and fire on a foundation system renders the foundation unusable, or impractical for re-use. A long burning fire can generate enough heat to damage and weaken the concrete and steel reinforcement bars in footings, slabs, and footing stem walls. Even though concrete is non-flammable and offers fire protective qualities for preventing the spread of fire, it loses most, if not all its structural strength characteristics when exposed to extreme heat from a long burning fire.

Therefore, crews may remove the damaged foundation, at the behest of the property owner. ​

Estimated typical cost for foundation removal (20 hour work on a standard 2,000 sq ft home): $27,009.33




​Yes. A Task Force representative will reach out to you before crews clean your property so you can make an informed decision about your concrete foundation.​

Yes. Before you can rebuild, concrete foundations must meet local building code requirements which vary by city and/or county.

Repaired or new concrete foundations are subject to the same requirements from building inspections by the city or county.

In some instances, the local city or county building department may require an Oregon-licensed structural or geotechnical engineer to inspect and sign off before issuing a building permit.

Besides county building inspection, ensure foundations also fulfill the city’s building requirements, if applicable.

Contact your local city or county building department for more details.

Building department links:





Yes. Air quality can become unhealthy when too much dust from fire debris gets in the air. To prevent this from happening, state contractors are controlling dust and visually monitoring dust levels in the air at every cleanup site. If crews observe excessive dust, they’ll pause work and fix the issue before resuming.

The state will also use dedicated air monitoring staff at some cleanup sites to evaluate in real-time whether dust control and visual monitoring protocols are effective.

Crews will use several methods to control dust in cleanup sites:

  • Covering piles of soil, ash and debris with tarps.
  • Wetting down the soil, ash and other debris.
  • Limiting speed of vehicles in the work area.
  • Limiting work during high-wind conditions.
  • Using safe practices for handling and excavating ash and debris on the work site.
  • Covering debris in trucks before it driven away.
  • Cleaning vehicle tires before they leave the site.

The Debris Management Task Force shares weekly air quality monitoring reports for all active cleanup sites. Read the reports on the debris cleanup blog: debriscleanupnews.com If you have questions or concerns about air quality, call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline 503-934-1700 or email odot.wildfire@osot.state.or.us.


Yes, but there are details property owners should be aware of:​

Professional arborists will assess fire-damaged trees on private property to determine if they pose a threat to people or structures; these are called hazard trees. Hazard trees near areas where cleanup crews will be working will be cut down.

Hazard trees on private property deemed a threat to public property will also be cut down. Public property includes but is not limited to: roadways, trails, parking areas, sidewalks, and public waterways.

Hazard trees on developed private property, but safely away from cleanup areas and public spaces, will not be cut down. Hazard trees on undeveloped private property will also not be cut down. In both cases, those trees are the responsibility of the property owner.


Certified arborists follow FEMA criteria to determine if a tree is a “hazard tree." Hazard trees are dead or dying trees that will present an eminent threat to the traveling public within a five year timeframe. Watch a video about how we evaluate hazard trees.

Wildfire is devastating to a tree's structural integrity, and structural defects are the primary indicators that a tree is a hazard. Obvious signs are fire damage to the lower trunk or roots. Wildfire burns very hot and can damage a tree's base, making it susceptible to falling over, especially in rough winter weather.

Other signs, like a damaged interior, are harder to spot. Trees with pre-fire holes or damage are especially vulnerable to fire. The fire can enter through these old wounds and burn through the interior of the tree, hollowing it out and killing it. The dead tree might still appear healthy on the outside — especially near the top — but this is deceiving. Inside, the tree is a charred cavity, making it unstable and dangerous.  

Where a tree is standing can factor in to whether or not it's a hazard. Typically, hazard trees are cut down if they're within a distance of 1.5x their height from a roadway. Hazard trees near public areas, like trails or parking lots, must be cut down, too. We're also evaluating trees near debris cleanup work areas, in order to keep our crews safe.

Burned trees that are away from roads or cleanup work areas may still be a hazard if they're on steep terrain. Burned trees on steep terrain can fall and roll down the hill, becoming dangerous projectiles. That's why you might see hillsides being cleared of trees, especially on hills are near roadways. ​

Crews will cut felled trees into smaller, manageable log segments and pile them for property owners on their land. Any slash from felled logs, like branches, leaves and needles, will be chipped and spread on the property for erosion control.

The state will not haul away any felled trees or log segments from private property. Owners can decide what they would like to do with the log segments.​

​Yes, but only if the trees are deemed “hazard trees” by professional arborists. Hazard trees pose a threat to people or structures. This will primarily apply along public roadways, but can also apply to trails, sidewalks, public parking areas, and public waterways. Crews will also remove felled trees, log decks and debris left behind by the wildfire response efforts.​

Many parties have been marking hazard trees for potential removal during Step 1 and the lead up to Step 2. Power utilities, state contractors, state arborists and others all use unique tree markings. We know this can be confusing, but the bottom line is any marked tree deemed hazardous to people or structures will be cut down.

For Step 2, state contractors are applying a sticker with a barcode to each hazard tree. The barcodes help contractors keep track of the trees and ensures the state submits accurate reports to FEMA for Step 2 cleanup reimbursement. ​

  • Regular blue dot and barcode: hazard trees
  • Blue dot with X and barcode: indicates hazard tree that is also a danger to overhead utilities
  • Red dot and barcode: indicates an extremely dangerous hazard tree
  • White dots with no barcode: trees not to be cut​



Possibly, depending on septic tank location and how much damage it sustained from the wildfires.

State contractors will attempt to locate and evaluate septic tanks on private property. If the septic tank and tank cover/lid appear to be in intact, crews will install temporary fencing to protect it during the debris removal work. After work is complete, the fencing will be left in place and will be the property owner’s responsibility.

If a tank is damaged enough to warrant removal due to safety concerns, crews will first pump out the contents, then excavate the tank. They will then fill the excavation hole with a cement sand slurry. The slurry can be removed later at the owner’s discretion. Crews will follow DEQ standards to safely dispose the septic tank and its contents.​

State contractors will mark wells to protect them from damage during cleanup work.​

​Oregon Health Authority is offering free private well testing for eligible property owners. Learn more about the program on their well testing webpage​.​


Yes. Soil testing is the final part of the Step 2 cleanup process. After crews remove ash and debris from your property, they will proactively remove up to six inches of soil, because toxic metal contaminants are often left behind after a fire. Crews will then test the soil on the ground for these contaminants. Wildfire contaminants in the soil can be a threat to public health.

If crews detect no wildfire contaminants, then no further action is needed. If crews detect wildfire containments, they will remove additional soil, and test the soil again. They’ll repeat this process until wildfire contaminants are below levels where they pose a risk to public health.

Once soil testing is completed on a property, that concludes the Step 2 cleanup. The state will issue the property owner a notice stating debris has been removed, soil has been tested, and the Right of Entry is no longer in effect.

If you opt out of the state-led cleanup program and perform cleanup on your own, you should:

  1. Contact your county for any information on requirements.
  2. Follow guidance from DEQ at ordeq.org/firedebris.

Note: If you do cleanup yourself and want to test your soil, you will have to pay for this out of pocket, or possibly through your insurance, if applicable.​


After Step 2 cleanup is completed on your property, you’ll be issued an official notice from the state. This ends the Right of Entry agreement, and you’re free to begin the rebuilding process.​
If you participate in the state-led Step 2 cleanup process, the state will remove ash and debris from your property regardless of FEMA approval.​


Step 1 FAQs

How will I know when hazardous waste removal (Step 1) is complete for my property?

When hazardous waste removal work (Step 1) is complete, EPA posts a “Complete” sign on the property and enters the property into a database that automatically tells the county and state that the property is ready for Step 2 (ash and debris removal).

Check hazardous waste cleanup progress for your property on& EPA’s 2020 Oregon Fires Recovery website.​

I missed the Step 1 sign up and the hazardous waste removal by EPA is complete in my area. Can I still sign up for Step 1?
Yes. If you didn’t sign up for Step 1 while EPA was doing the work in your area, you can still participate in the assisted cleanup. Sign the Right of Entry form for all wildfire debris with your county as soon as possible to get this work started. State contractors will complete Step 1, hazardous waste removal, on your property before beginning Step 2, ash and debris removal.​




General Cleanup FAQs

If you choose to do cleanup yourself, it will be at your own cost. Removal of household hazardous waste and debris can be an expensive process, costing as much as $75,000. Even with insurance, a majority of this cost may not be covered.
 
The state and federal government is committed to paying for removal of household hazardous waste, which means that property owners can reserve their insurance funds for other recovery efforts.
 
The Wildfire Debris Removal Task Force strongly urges individual property owners not to remove hazardous materials and debris themselves because of the potential risks to health and safety. However, if you take on cleanup yourself, please do the following:

  • Contact your county or call 682-800-5737 to opt out of the assisted cleanup.

  • Contact your insurance provider before you begin cleanup to learn of requirements they may have for reimbursement.

  • Contact your county or city code enforcement agency to determine their cleanup requirements for new construction permits.

  • Determine if the ash and debris contain asbestos. Many homes and buildings have materials with asbestos. State rules govern various aspects of managing and removing asbestos. You can hire an accredited inspector to survey your property for asbestos-containing materials, or you can presume that all debris and ash contain asbestos. DEQ strongly recommends hiring a licensed abatement contractor to perform any abatement activities. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and there is no known safe level of exposure. Refer to guidance on DEQ's asbestos webpage or contact DEQ prior to starting any ash or debris cleanup activities.

  • Contact your local waste disposal site to learn what requirements they have for waste acceptance. Many landfills require specific documentation of the waste you drop off so they can handle it properly and comply with regulations. This can include lab results to determine what hazardous materials are in your debris. If you do not have the proper documentation, you may not be allowed to dispose of your debris.

  • Cover ash and debris loads during transport.

  • Asbestos containing waste materials must be packaged properly for transport and disposal. This means double bagging the material in 6 mil plastic sheeting, and labeling it as asbestos.

  • Recycle metal, concrete and wood debris. Clean recyclable materials with water prior to transport to reduce the spread of asbestos or other contaminants in the ash. Do not discharge water containing ash into the stormwater system or surface waters, as it can cause water quality issues.
  • Find more information about cleanup requirements on DEQ's wildfire debris removal webpage.

  • Follow safety precautions outlined here.​

            Property owners will pay no upfront cost and no government agency or contractor working for them will recoup any insurance money unless it is designated for debris or left over after rebuilding your home.​

            The state is paying for the cost of wildfire cleanup for affected property owners and will not recoup insurance money you need to use to rebuild your home. The state would only recoup insurance money that is specifically designated for debris removal, or that is left over after you have rebuilt your home. These recouped funds will help cover the cost of cleanup statewide. 

            State and county agencies are required by FEMA to make an effort to recoup insurance funds specified for debris removal or left over after you have rebuilt your home. This is to ensure there is not a duplication of benefits.

            There are two types of debris removal coverages in a property owner's insurance policy: specified amount for debris removal, and no specified amount for debris removal.

            Specified amount for debris removal: Some insurance policies have specific funds for debris removal. The state will try to recoup the funds specifically designated for debris removal; but only these funds. They will not try to recoup funds that could go toward rebuilding.

            No specified amount for debris removal: The state will only ask for leftover insurance funds after the property owner has rebuilt their home. If no funds are left over, the state will not ask for additional payment. If funds are left over, the amount is capped at the cost of debris removal for that property.

            The state will also not ask for any additional payment beyond the insurance money you have left over. For example, if your policy pays out $100,000 and you spent the full $100,000 rebuilding your home, the state will not seek any of that $100,000 that came from the insurance company. However, let's say you only spent $80,000; then the state would seek up to the unspent $20,000.

            When and how the state seeks reimbursement is unique to each insurance policy. We recommend you verify the specifics of your insurance policy with your insurance agent, so you know what to expect after cleanup is complete for your property.​


            The state strongly urges individual property owners not to use their insurance to pay for wildfire cleanup. Instead, we recommend owners opt in to the state and county-led wildfire cleanup program that is offered to property owners at no cost.

            This means that property owners can save their insurance funds for other recovery efforts, like rebuilding their homes or businesses.

            If you have specific insurance questions, contact Oregon’s Insurance Commission Consumer Advocate Hotline: 888-877-4894.​

            Make sure you have contacted your insurance adjuster about your situation.

            The state will not request reimbursement from insurance funds you have used for debris cleanup. You will be asked to provide documentation of all debris cleanup costs you paid for.

            However, the state may ask for any remaining benefits available for debris removal under the policy after you have rebuilt your home. This is to prevent duplication of benefits.


            ​The state will only seek reimbursement when there is a designated amount that's been paid for debris removal and listed in the loss settlement documentation. 


            ​The state will only request reimbursement from insurance funds from whoever owned the property at the time of loss.​


            There are no restrictions from an insurance perspective. ​If you are a new property owner and are ready to rebuild, check with your local building department for state, county, city or local permitting requirements.​


            Yes. The property owner just needs to sign an access agreement to allow cleanup crews on their property. The access agreement is called a Right of Entry form. Personal information will not be shared with the federal government. Contact your county to find more information about how to submit your access agreement.​

            If you choose to return to your property, follow these safety tips ​to protect yourself and your family.

            ​We’re following our standard, proven erosion control methods in operation areas. Along highways, crews are chipping slash and other tree debris and spreading the chips on slopes to help stabilize the area. We’re also hydroseeding and mulching areas after hazard tree removal.​

            On private property, crews will use tree chips to stabilize work areas, but will not be hydroseeding.


            Why this process is important

            We understand that, as Oregonians, we want to return to our communities and begin the recovery process. Waiting for a larger process to get set up can seem frustrating, but there are important reasons for doing this.

            Save Money

            Removal of household hazardous waste and debris can be an incredibly expensive process, costing as much as $75,000. Even with insurance, a majority of this cost may not be covered. The state is committed to paying for removal of household hazardous waste, which means that property owners can reserve their insurance funds for other recovery efforts.

            FEMA Reimbursement and Eligibility

            FEMA does not work directly with individual property owners on cleanup work. FEMA will only work with and reimburse the state or county for cleanup work.

            Threat to Your Health

            Doing your own cleanup without proper protection puts your health at risk. Burned materials are hazardous and require more than gloves and a mask to protect your health. Buildings constructed before 2004 are likely to contain asbestos, which is carcinogenic.

            Difficult to Dispose

            Many landfills require specific documentation of the waste people drop off so they can handle it properly and comply with their regulation. This can include lab results to determine what hazardous materials are in your debris. If you do not have the proper documentation, you may not be allowed to dispose of your debris.

            Sign up to get updates on wildfire debris removal

            Sign up for monthly e-newsletter for updates.

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            Questions?

            Questions about wildfire cleanup? Call our wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700. Or email questions to odot.wildfire@odot.state.or.us.

            Contractor questions: for more information about contracting opportunities for wildfire cleanup, call 541-786-3134 or feather.sams-huesties@odot.state.or.us.

             
             

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