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Nearly all private properties enrolled in a statewide wildfire debris cleanup program are now clear of wreckage from last year’s fires, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services recently announced.

Crews helped remove 430,000 tons worth of metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soils from almost 1,800 properties that were badly damaged from the 2021 wildfire season — free of cost.

The program, called the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program, also worked to remove “hazard trees” — burned, structurally defective trees that are likely to collapse and cause more damage in the event of a wildfire. Crews have since identified and removed almost 58,000 of these trees to date.

This year’s ongoing wildfire season has prompted the need to strengthen firefighting resources and response times, but the state agency said it is also important to prioritize recovery operations for those still affected by wildfires in years prior.

“Removing wildfire debris thoroughly and efficiently gives survivors a path to rebuild.”

Rachel Machi Wagoner, CalRecycle

Clearing out debris, polluted soil and hazardous trees is the first step for property owners to rebuild homes and structures. The 67,000 tons of recovered metal and concrete will also be used for new construction projects across the state, thanks to Cal OES’ partnership with CalRecycle.

“Removing wildfire debris thoroughly and efficiently gives survivors a path to rebuild,” Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of CalRecycle, said in a statement. “We thank our state, local, and federal partners for their shared commitment to assisting the communities devastated by wildfires.”

Much of the work was done in Plumas County after the 960,000-acre Dixie Fire nearly obliterated the town of Greenville. Cal OES said the town is “on the road to recovery” a year after the fire, thanks to state and local support to remove debris and rebuild first responder capacity in the area.

Looking ahead, Cal OES received a thumbs-up from federal agencies in June to remove burned down cabins in El Dorado County, following the 2021 Caldor Fire. Crews will continue to work on the project in the fall.