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. Completed in early December 2020.
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.
You can still sign up for the state-led cleanup. See “How to Participate in Step 2 cleanup” below
Property owner questions: call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contractor questions: for information about wildfire cleanup contracting opportunities, contact Katie Hubler, wildfire recovery diversity coordinator at 971-718-6681 or email@example.com
*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.
Step 2 cleanup is underway
Visit the Step 2 cleanup progress page to look up the cleanup status of your property. See progress by county, and photo/video of work done so far.
Follow our debris cleanup news blog for updates, personal stories and topical deep dives as Step 2 work continues throughout 2021.
How to participate in Step 2 cleanup
To participate in Step 2, property owners must:
- Sign an access agreement, called an All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form.
- Complete the Private Property Debris Removal Questionnaire for their property.
1. All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form
Property owners must sign and submit an access agreement called an All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form. Signed forms allow Step 2 cleanup crews onto private property.
- If you signed the All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form for Step 1, you do not need to submit another form for Step 2. Move on to the Property Debris Removal Questionnaire.
- If you submitted a Right of Entry form for Step 1 only and now want to participate in Step 2, you must sign an additional, separate All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form. Forms are sorted by county. See hyperlinks below.
- If you are unsure about the status of your All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form, call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry forms by county are available online:
- Clackamas County
- Douglas County
- Jackson County
- Klamath County
- Lane County
- Lincoln County
- Linn County
- Marion County
2. Private Property Debris Removal Questionnaire
We need specific information about your property before we can clean it. Complete the Private Property Debris Removal Questionnaire to provide those details. Our cleanup crews will use those details to perform a quick, safe cleanup on your property.
We mailed all property owners enrolled in Step 2 a letter with a unique access number in December 2020. The access number is how we verify your identity as the property owner when you complete the questionnaire. It also ensures that the information you submit is confidential.
You must have this access number to complete the questionnaire, and you must complete the questionnaire to have Step 2 work done.
The form asks questions like:
- How many buildings were/are on the property?
- Where is the septic tank?
- Are there other underground tanks?
- Are there vehicles on the property?
If you signed up for Step 2 but did not receive a letter with an access number, you lost your letter, or you need assistance with the questionnaire, call our wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700.
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 follow the requirements from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and work with your local county. Additional information is in the FAQs.
What we’re doing in Step 2 cleanup
Cleanup crews hired by the state will remove hazard trees, and ash and debris from burned properties. Homes, mobile home parks, businesses, second residences, and other properties are eligible. When finished, properties are ready for rebuilding.
Step 2 began in December 2020 and will progress through multiple impacted areas simultaneously. We estimate it will take 6-18 months to complete all properties. The range accounts for weather, property access limitations, and the large area to be covered.
As work gets underway, we’ll share a more precise cleanup schedule.
Hazard tree removal
Cleanup crews will cut down or “fell” hazard trees first, after consultation with professional arborists.
- Along public roadways, crews will remove felled trees, slash, debris and log decks left behind by wildfire response efforts. They will also fell trees that pose a safety threat to the roadway.
- On private property, arborists will identify hazard trees as any that will endanger cleanup crews, or are a threat to nearby public areas, like roads or waterways. Cleanup crews will cut down those hazard trees.
See the Step 2 FAQs for more information about hazard trees on public and private property.
Ash and debris removal
Cleanup crews will remove ash and debris after they cut down hazard trees in the area. “Debris” refers to a variety of objects and structure remains. See section below for what’s eligible for Step 2 cleanup.
Crews will sort debris types and dispose them in the appropriate facilities.
Crews will also test property soil for hazardous materials for all cleaned properties, free of change. Learn more about this process in the FAQ section below.
After crews remove ash and debris, and the soil is deemed safe, property owners will receive a notice that their property is now ready for rebuilding and the Right of Entry is no longer in effect.
Questions about Step 2: call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700 or email email@example.com.
Note: ash and debris are still dangerous, even after Step 1 is complete. Ash and debris may contain asbestos or chemicals that are harmful to your health if inhaled. If you must return to your property before Step 2 is complete, follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your family.
What’s eligible for Step 2 cleanup
Click your preferred language to view a PDF guide for what kinds of structures, trees and other features of your property are eligible for Step 2 cleanup.
You can get these documents in other languages, large print, braille or a format you prefer. Contact David Cardona, OEM Language Access Coordinator at 971-719-1183 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We accept all relay calls or you can dial 711.
Questions about Step 2: call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700 or email email@example.com
What we did in Step 1: hazardous waste removal
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate each property for hazardous waste and other dangerous substances, and safely removed them when necessary. This was an important first step to keep Step 2 crews safe while cleaning properties and to ensure property owners’ safety when they return to rebuild.
Step 1 was funded by the federal and state government, and provided free of charge to property owners in all eight counties affected by the fires: Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion.
Hazardous waste includes fuel, car batteries, antifreeze, paint, bleach, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, solvents, used oil filters, pool chemicals, ammunition and more. Crews also identified and disposed of large pieces of asbestos materials.
Questions about Step 2: call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline at 503-934-1700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Step 2 Frequently Asked Questions
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 crews start to remove hazard trees and clear debris on a larger scale in 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.
There is no current deadline. However, we encourage you to submit your form quickly so cleanup work can begin as soon as possible on your property. Deadlines may be imposed to ensure that all cleanup can be done in an area at one time.
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.
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.
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.
If state contractors can identify a damaged septic tank, they will pump it and backfill it with a cement sand slurry, which will prevent it from caving in. Septic systems will not be removed as part of wildfire cleanup.
State contractors will mark wells to protect them from damage during cleanup work.
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:
- Contact your county for any information on requirements.
- 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 Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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 Frequently Asked Questions
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 alicensed 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.
Federal, state and local government agencies will not recoup insurance money you need to use to rebuild your home. The state would only recoup money from your insurance that is specifically designated for debris removal or that is left over after you have rebuilt your home.
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. If federal, state or local agencies lead the ash and debris removal effort, they 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. On the other hand, if you do cleanup on your own, the cleanup cost will likely exceed the amount of debris funds in your policy, and you will have to make up the difference. Doing the cleanup on your own will cost more than using the state and county-led program, and could reduce the amount of insurance money you have available to rebuild your home.
No specified amount for debris removal: Many insurance policies do not have specific debris removal funds. If federal, state or local agencies lead the ash and debris removal effort, they will only ask for insurance funds after the property owner has rebuilt their home, if insurance funds are still available. This amount is capped at the cost of debris removal. If insurance funds have been used up during rebuilding, there will be no cost to the homeowner. If you do cleanup on your own, cleanup costs will come out of your total insurance coverage and will reduce the amount of money you have to rebuild your home.
The state strongly urges individual property owners not to use their insurance to pay for wildfire cleanup. Instead, they 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.
Step 1: Hazardous waste removal is provided at no cost to property owners. Federal and state governments are covering the costs of household hazardous waste removal. Property owners must sign an access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, to allow cleanup crews onto their property. Contact your county to find more information about how to submit your access agreement or call 682-800-5737.
Step 2: 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 Oregon Legislature has approve an initial round of funding to get started with this work while the state and counties work to maximize federal funding. The Debris Management Task Force is currently working with counties to apply for waivers from FEMA that will allow for ash and debris removal from private residential properties, the removal of concrete pads and burned cars, and soil testing.
Yes. The property owner just needs to sign an access agreement to allow cleanup crews on their property. The access agreement is called an All Wildfire Debris 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
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
- Scam Alert: Avoid cleanup, repair and insurance scams
- Department of Motor Vehicles: replacing DMV documents and reporting the destruction of fire damaged vehicles.
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality: how to protect water quality, follow asbestos rules and stay safe around ash and debris.
- Construction Contractors Board: steps and tips for going through the rebuilding process.
- Division of Financial Regulation:steps and tips for working with your insurance company