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Wildfire Cleanup

Wildfire Cleanup

Wildfire Cleanup was a Two-Step Process

The State of Oregon worked 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 led the effort. The group is called the Oregon Wildfire Debris Management Task Force.

Property owners who participated 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 removed hazard trees, and ash and debris. Work began in December 2020 and was completed in late June 2022.

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.

Step 2 Cleanup

The statewide deadline to sign up has passed

The statewide deadline to sign up for the state-led cleanup program was September 15, 2021.

Property owners must have a signed and submitted access agreement, called a Right of Entry form, to allow Step 2 cleanup crews onto their property. We are no longer accepting new enrollments.

If you’re unsure about the status of your Right of Entry form or would like to request an electronic copy of your cleanup completion letter and/or final soil test report, call the wildfire debris cleanup hotline: 503-934-1700.


Doing cleanup yourself

If you decide to do cleanup yourself, you must follow these requirements from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and work with your local county.

Additional information about DIY cleanup in the FAQ section below.



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. ​

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.

If you take on cleanup yourself, please do the following:
  • 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.​

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.​

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. ​

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.

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.​

On site evaluation by Task Force crews may have determined that a foundation was damaged by the sustained and intense heat of wildfires, and was unsafe to rebuild on. Therefore, crews may have removed 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. 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:

Air quality can become unhealthy when too much dust from fire debris gets in the air. To prevent this from happening, state contractors controlled dust and visually monitored dust levels in the air at every cleanup site. If crews observed excessive dust, they paused work and fixed the issue before resuming.

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

Crews used 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 shared 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 assessed fire-damaged trees on private property to determine if they posed a threat to people or structures; these are called hazard trees. Hazard trees near areas where cleanup crews were working were cut down.

Hazard trees on private property deemed a threat to public property were also 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, were not cut down. Hazard trees on undeveloped private property were not cut down. In both cases, those trees are the responsibility of the property owner.

Certified arborists followed FEMA criteria to determine if a tree was 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 evaluated 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 also evaluated 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 cleared of trees, especially on hills are near roadways. ​​


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

The state did 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 were deemed “hazard trees” by professional arborists. Hazard trees pose a threat to people or structures. This primarily applied along public roadways, but can also apply to trails, sidewalks, public parking areas, and public waterways. Crews also removed felled trees, log decks and debris left behind by the wildfire response efforts.​

Many parties have marked 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 applied a sticker with a barcode to each hazard tree. The barcodes helped contractors keep track of the trees and ensured that the state submitted 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 located and evaluated septic tanks on private property. If the septic tank and tank cover/lid appeared to be in intact, crews installed temporary fencing to protect it during the debris removal work. After work was complete, the fencing was left in place and will be the property owner’s responsibility.

If a tank was damaged enough to warrant removal due to safety concerns, crews first pumped out the contents, then excavated the tank. They then filled the excavation hole with a cement sand slurry. The slurry can be removed later at the owner’s discretion. Crews followed DEQ standards to safely dispose septic tanks and their contents.​
State contractors marked 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 was the final part of the Step 2 cleanup process. After crews removed ash and debris from your property, they proactively removed up to six inches of soil, because toxic metal contaminants are often left behind after a fire. Crews then tested the soil on the ground for these contaminants. Wildfire contaminants in the soil can be a threat to public health.

If crews detected no wildfire contaminants, then no further action is needed. If crews detected wildfire containments, they removed additional soil, and tested the soil again. They repeated that process until wildfire contaminants were below levels where they posed a risk to public health.

Once soil testing was complete on a property, that concluded the Step 2 cleanup. The state issued property owners a notice stating debris has been removed, soil has been tested, and the Right of Entry is no longer in effect.

If you decide to 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 was completed on your property, you were issued an official notice from the state. This ends the Right of Entry agreement, and you’re free to begin the rebuilding process.​


General Cleanup FAQs

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.​


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 not request any reimbursement from you.​


​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.​


​We followed our standard, proven erosion control methods in operation areas.

Along highways, crews chipped slash and other tree debris, and spread the chips on slopes to help stabilize the area. We also hydroseeded and mulched areas after hazard tree removal.​

On private property, crews used tree chips and hydroseeding to stabilize work areas.


Why this process was important

We understand that, as Oregonians, we wanted to return to our communities and begin the recovery process. Waiting for a larger process to get set up can be frustrating, but there were 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.

Forest background  
 
 

Questions?

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

 
 

Additional Resources