California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Disaster Preparedness and Response

Wildfire Preparedness & Response

Latest News...
  • 2015 Wildfire Cleanups. CalRecycle crews are on the ground and coordinating the cleanup in the aftermath of a string of recent devastating wildfires: The Valley Fire, the Butte Fire, the Trinity County Fires, and the Rocky & Jerusalem Fires.

California has experienced numerous devastating wildfires that have destroyed lives, property, businesses, and the environment. Each summer, particularly in drought years, California faces the same threat of wildfires and should be prepared for a catastrophic wildfire event.

CalRecycle has been involved in the cleanup efforts for several large wildfires since 2007 (including the Boles, Witch, and Angora fires), and has prepared the resources and guidance below to assist assist local governments with potential wildfire debris management and disposal, household hazardous waste collection and storage, and ash cleanup and disposal.

Disaster Debris Management

Depending on the circumstances and extent of damage caused by a wildfire, local government jurisdictions may want to develop a coordinated approach to fire debris cleanup. This would generally involve some level of oversight on behalf of the local government, whether it be:

  • Establishment of standards for cleanup (based on public health and safety findings from prior fires).
  • Local government contracting and managing the removal of debris from private properties for those entities voluntarily participating in the coordinated program.
  • In unique situations, using State-contracted cleanup crews.

Considerations such as extent of damage to private properties, level of declaration (local, State or federal), funding availability, and immediate threat to human health, public safety and the environment may lead a local government to develop any one of these coordinated approaches to debris cleanup. Alternatively, jurisdictions may opt to require individual private property owners to conduct their own debris cleanups, with no local government involvement. In either case, the following guidelines/tools may be used to manage fire/disaster debris cleanup projects.

Public Health/Safety Initial Guidelines: Guidance on disaster debris management, including selecting and securing temporary storage sites, is available in Local Enforcement Agency Advisory #43--Disaster Assistance, as well as in the Disaster Plan. LEA Advisory #43 also contains guidance on financial and technical assistance, as well as information to collect for CalRecycle.

General fire debris hazards and cleanup information is also available on the CalEPA website to assist in fire debris cleanup.

Coordinated Debris Removal Operation for Local Governments: Scope of Work for the Angora Fire Structural Debris Removal--Lake Tahoe, California, dated September 15, 2007). Debris removal plan prepared by CalRecycle for El Dorado County.

Local government jurisdictions choosing to coordinate a fire debris cleanup may also want to consider the following:

  • Debris removal operations center establishment;
  • Voluntary participation programs, including the right-of-entry permit, which allows County/City/State agency to proceed with cleanup on privately owned properties;
  • Household hazardous waste collection/coordination;
  • Removal of landscape/vegetation;
  • Erosion control.

For technical questions regarding wildfire debris and its removal, contact Todd Thalhamer.

Disaster Waste Tracking: Jurisdictions may deduct disaster waste tonnage in their annual reports to the CalRecycle, so that it will not negatively impact their solid waste diversion rates. In order for jurisdictions to be able to claim this disposal reduction, it is essential that disaster waste be tracked at disposal facilities. Disaster waste needs to be tracked separately. For each disaster waste load received, facilities need to record the tons by jurisdiction. Applicable jurisdictions will need to be able to obtain an accounting that shows how much disaster waste originated from their jurisdiction. If this data is not tracked in this manner, it is very difficult for jurisdictions to substantiate a disposal reduction, thereby negatively impacting their ability to achieve their mandated diversion goals. Local government and emergency personnel have the most specific knowledge of areas that burned and facilities that are--or soon will be--receiving disaster waste. We ask that you assist us in notifying all applicable facilities regarding these record-keeping needs.

Solid Waste and Recycling Facilities. Search CalRecycle's database of solid waste and recycling facilities throughout the state to find sites that accept specific material categories.

Guidance Documents


  • Local Enforcement Agency Advisory #43--Disaster Assistance. Guidance on disaster debris management, including selecting and securing temporary storage sites.
  • Local Enforcement Agency Advisory #41--Emergency Waiver of Standards. Guidance on the issuance of emergency waivers.
  • Integrated Waste Management Disaster Plan. CalRecycle's 1997 plan contains information and case studies that can assist local governments in recovery efforts.Note: FEMA reimbursement requirements may have changed since the CalRecycle's Disaster Plan was adopted. Please go to the FEMA website for up-to-date information on reimbursement requirements.
    • The Executive Summary includes checklists that direct you to the information on pertinent topics.
    • Chapter 4 includes information on temporary storage and waivers.
    • Chapter 5 contains information on and examples of debris management contracts.
    • Chapter 17 includes case studies of the 1991 Oakland Fire and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake debris management programs and examples of ordinances and contracts used to manage the debris.
  • Asbestos-Containing Ash and Disaster Debris. Solid waste landfills accepting ash or other disaster debris that contains greater than 1 percent friable asbestos by weight that are not already permitted to accept such waste must obtain an emergency waiver specific to this waste type pursuant to the procedure set forth in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 7, Chapter 3, Article 3. Where the Enforcement Agency has issued a waiver, the ash or debris containing greater than 1 percent friable asbestos should be handled in accordance with California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Section 17897.18 "Design and Operating Requirements" for solid waste facilities that dispose of asbestos-containing waste.
  • Rebuilding Green. CalRecycle's fact sheet provides ideas that can save or reduce resources in five categories: site, water, energy, materials, and indoor environmental quality as you rebuild your home after a disaster.

Other CalEPA Boards, Departments, and Offices

Additional Resources


Last updated: October 2, 2015
Disaster Preparedness and Response
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