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2020 Oregon Wildfire Recovery – Wildfire Cleanup and Debris Removal

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What’s next for people whose homes or businesses burned?

Getting started

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to safely address ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires. Removing fire debris is a two-step cleanup process. Step 1 is clearing properties of household hazardous waste to minimize exposure of hazardous materials to the public. Step 2 is removal of ash and debris.

If you have questions about this process, call our Wildfire Debris Cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700. Or email questions to odot.wildfire@odot.state.or.us.

Options for wildfire cleanup:


Understanding your insurance is important. Read our FAQ below!

Step 1: Household hazardous waste removal – No cost to property owners

Before you can rebuild, your property must be cleared of household hazardous waste or other hazardous substances. Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will visit properties, determine what hazardous materials need to be removed, and remove them for safe disposal. This service is funded by federal and state government and provided free of charge to property owners in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties.

Household 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 will also safely identify and dispose of large pieces of asbestos materials.

Questions or concerns? Call EPA’s hazardous waste removal hotline, available in English and Spanish 8 a.m.-8 p.m., 7 days a week: 541-225-5549

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

IMPORTANT: Property owners must sign an access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, to allow cleanup crews onto their property. We encourage residents to submit Right of Entry forms quickly so cleanup can begin as soon as possible. Residents can still submit Right of Entry forms after the original Oct. 16 deadline. For more information about how to submit your Right of Entry form, visit your county’s website below or call 682-800-5737.

Step 2: Ash and debris removal

In Step 2, cleanup crews hired by the state will remove ash and debris from burned properties to get them ready for rebuilding. The work is available to all property owners that opt into Step 2 and includes homes, mobile home parks, businesses, second residences, and other structures.

Cleanup crews will also coordinate with property owners on potential removal of hazard trees, concrete foundations, and burned vehicles.

Home and business owners that opt into Step 2 will pay no upfront costs for any cleanup work. Additionally, no government agency – state, federal or contractor - will seek payment from any insurance policy unless it is specifically designated for debris removal or left over after the home or business is completely rebuilt.

Step 1 cleanup went county by county, but Step 2 cleanup will be in many places at once. Step 2 cleanup work will start when Step 1 completes; we’re expecting Step 2 to begin early December 2020 and take 6 - 18 months to complete depending on weather, property access limitations and the large area to be covered. As the state task force gets contractors on board, more clarity on timing will be provided.

The no-cost Step 2 cleanup is available to all eight counties impacted by the wildfires: Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion.

For home and business owners, the best thing you can do is sign a Right of Entry form through your county; see links above. There is no Step 2 only form. If you want Step 2 cleanup on your property, you must sign the All Wildfire Debris Right of Entry form.

If you have questions about this process, call our Wildfire Debris Cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700. Or email questions to odot.wildfire@odot.state.or.us.

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 return to your property, follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your family. 



Step 2 Frequently Asked Questions

The state aims to start the ash and debris removal process in December 2020, and estimates this work will take 6 to 18 months to complete for the entire state depending 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 December 2020 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 Right of Entry form to get free removal of hazardous waste and debris.

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 Right of Entry form to get free removal of hazardous waste and debris.

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 call you 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 calling you is a fraudster, do not give them personal information and hang up immediately. Call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline – 503-934-1700 -- and confirm that the call 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. You just need to do sign your county’s Right of Entry form to allow cleanup crews onto your property. If you’ve used insurance money for this work, 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.

Yes. Mobile home parks will be included in wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. Businesses will be included in wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. Second residences will be included in wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. The state will provide an opportunity for property owners to opt into removal of concrete and structural foundations as part of wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. The state will provide an opportunity for property owners to opt into removal of concrete and structural foundations as part of wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. Barns and other agricultural outbuildings will be included in wildfire ash and debris removal.

Yes. Burned cars, boats, and trailers will be included in wildfire debris removal. The state’s contractors will coordinate with the vehicle owner on this removal.

If you know 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, or 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 more about reporting the destruction of vehicles from fires.

State contractors working on debris removal will contact property owners before removing trees.

A professional arborist will assess trees near homes and businesses to determine if they pose a safety threat to cleanup crews working to remove ash and debris in the area. Contractors will only cut down hazard trees that pose a danger, such as a tree leaning over the burned down area of a home.

Trees that are a threat to public property -- like a road, sidewalk, parking area or trail -- must be removed. Crews may also remove hazard trees deemed an immediate threat to public waterways.

Trees on undeveloped private property or are away from the destroyed home or business are the responsibility of the property owner. They will not be included in the state cleanup process.

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.

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.

Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessed and removed hazardous waste from burned homes and businesses. Hazardous waste includes fuel, car batteries, antifreeze, paint, bleach, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, solvents, ammunition and more. EPA marks empty fuel tanks and metal cans with a white X to indicate they are no longer hazardous. These items will be removed as part of Step 2, ash and debris removal.

With the advice of arborists, EPA also marks trees with an X if they pose a potential hazard to cleanup crews. These trees may need to be removed prior to rebuilding, and will be reassessed as part of Step 2.

Once work 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.

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

IMPORTANT: 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 return to your property before Step 2, ash and debris removal is complete, follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your family.

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.

Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessed and removed hazardous waste from burned homes and businesses. Hazardous waste includes fuel, car batteries, antifreeze, paint, bleach, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, solvents, ammunition and more. EPA marks empty fuel tanks and metal cans with a white X to indicate they are no longer hazardous. These items will be removed as part of Step 2, ash and debris removal.

With the advice of arborists, EPA also marks trees with an X if they pose a potential hazard to cleanup crews. These trees may need to be removed prior to rebuilding, and will be reassessed as part of Step 2.

Once work 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.

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

IMPORTANT: 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 return to your property before Step 2, ash and debris removal is complete, follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your family.


Other Frequently Asked Questions

The State of Oregon’s Debris Management Task Force is overseeing a coordinated effort by federal, state, and local government agencies to address household hazardous waste and debris removal. The task force consists of the Office of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

During Step 1, the Task Force worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who assessed and removed household hazardous waste from burned-out properties. The State of Oregon and FEMA funded this work.

For Step 2 -- ash and debris removal -- the Task Force will continue to coordinate with county, state and federal partners. The Task Force is hiring contractors to remove ash and debris, and hazardous trees. The State of Oregon will pay for this work, regardless of future FEMA reimbursement.

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.

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.

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.

Oregon’s Debris Management Task Force 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 -- removal of hazardous waste (Step 1) and debris (Step 2) – 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: Homeowners 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 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.





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.

Additional Resources