Every year, California faces the threat of devastating wildfires that have the potential to claim lives, destroy property, and harm the environment. Wildfire debris removal programs are implemented under the leadership of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and local governments.

CalOES: Wildfire Recovery Resources


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Debris Removal Contractors

Current solicitations can be found on CalRecycle’s contracts page.

Historically, CalRecycle has used large licensed general contractors for wildfire debris removal operations. Those licensed general contractors typically use licensed subcontractors to complete the work. CalRecycle maintains a list of contractors interested in fire debris removal work, which is available to all licensed general contractors and subcontractors as a resource to network and explore subcontracting opportunities.

Get onto CalRecycle’s contractor list by submitting an email to FireDebrisContracts@calrecycle.ca.gov that includes your:

  • Company Name
  • Address
  • Type of Work
  • Primary Contact Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • California Contractor's License Number

To avoid confusion, please submit your information only once. You will be directly notified by email of any solicitations.

Worker in Tyvek inspecting debris.
Workers in Tyvek inspecting home site.

CalRecycle is often tasked with overseeing and managing contractors and consultants to conduct debris removal operations on private properties at no out-of-pocket cost to property owners; however, where applicable, insurance proceeds specifically dedicated for debris removal shall be remitted to offset costs. Homeowners who choose to participate in the debris removal phase of the cleanup program are required to return signed Right of Entry forms to their local governments.

In 2018, California experienced a series of fast-moving wildfires that claimed lives and caused significant damage to communities throughout California.

CalOES has tasked CalRecycle to manage debris removal operations in Butte, Lake, Los Angeles, Shasta, Siskiyou, and Ventura counties.

Wildfire Cleanup Process and Order of Operations

The state-managed debris removal program has two phases: removal of household hazardous waste and removal of other fire-related debris.

Phase 1 | Household Hazardous Waste Removal
California Department of Toxic Substances Control or other dedicated agency

  • Clear properties of household hazardous waste, including propane tanks, compressed gas cylinders, and solvents.
  • Assess properties for asbestos and remove bulk asbestos material.

Phase 2 | Debris Removal
California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery

Site assessment and documentation

  • Measure and record foundation, structures, debris, utility infrastructure, and property-specific hazards.
  • Obtain and evaluate soil samples to establish cleanup goals for the project; identify and remove remaining asbestos-containing materials.

Debris removal

  • Remove of all burnt debris, foundations, dangerous trees, and contaminated soil
  • Conduct confirmation sampling.
  • Sample and analyze soil and compare results to cleanup goals.

Erosion control measures

  • Implement storm water best management practices to control sediment runoff and promote vegetation growth.

Final inspection

  • Property owners receive a certification that verifies the lot is clean and eligible to receive a building permit.

Private Cleanups: Property owners who do not qualify for, or who choose not to participate in, the state program should consult their local officials for information on contractor requirements and cleanup standards.

Resources for Homeowners

CalRecycle has been involved in past cleanup efforts for several large wildfires and has prepared the resources and guidance below to help residents and local governments with wildfire debris management and disposal, household hazardous waste collection and storage, and debris/ash cleanup and disposal.

Resources for Local Jurisdictions

Depending on the circumstances and extent of damage caused by a wildfire, local government jurisdictions develop a coordinated approach to fire debris cleanup. This could involve:

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

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

  • Establishment of a debris removal operations center;
  • Voluntary participation programs, including the right-of-entry permit, which allows a 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 CalRecycle.

Disaster Waste Tracking: Jurisdictions may deduct disaster waste tonnage in their annual reports to CalRecycle so it will not negatively impact their solid waste diversion rates. In order for jurisdictions to claim this disposal reduction, it is essential that disaster waste be tracked separately from other waste at disposal facilities. For each disaster waste load received, facilities must record the tons by jurisdiction. Local government and emergency personnel have the most specific knowledge of areas that burned and facilities that are or will be receiving disaster waste. We ask that you notify all applicable facilities regarding these record-keeping needs.

The following documents provide CalRecycle guidance for local disaster response efforts: