Camp Fire Survivor Thanks Cleanup Workers for Giving Her Closure
Chris and Michelle Friedman spent this past Thanksgiving in Santa Barbara with their daughter and four grandkids.
“It’s good to be with family during the holidays,” reflected Michelle.
Last year, their Thanksgiving had no tradition or comfort. They spent the weekend lodged in Redding after losing their Paradise home to the Camp Fire.
“Our hearts weren’t really into Thanksgiving,” explained Michelle. “We couldn’t enjoy it when we just lost so much.”
Last November, their house in Paradise was destroyed due to the Camp Fire. Their 1,900 square foot retirement dream home and almost all of their belongings had turned to ashes.
“That place felt like a vacation home in the mountains,” reflected Michelle. “We really loved it.”
Their house was one of nearly 11,000 homes in Butte County cleaned up by teams Cal OES and CalRecycle managed. After CalEPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control removed the most hazardous waste from burned properties, CalRecycle oversaw Phase 2, clearing away debris and ash from properties and recycling all concrete and anything else salvageable.
CalRecycle crews recently cleared more than 3.66 million tons, or 7.3 billion pounds, of ash, debris, metal, concrete, and contaminated soil.
“Our role is really critical with the survivors,” said Wes Minderman, CalRecycle Engineering Support Branch Chief. “We have a displaced community, these people have lost everything, and so our role and responsibility are to make sure that we do the debris removal, but we’re also sensitive to that fact. This is for the survivors. This is to assist them to recover and begin with the next step of their lives.”
Prior to the clean up of their property, the Friedmans were able to communicate with the project’s foreman, sharing floor plans and pictures of what the house used to look like.
“We knew they wouldn’t find much, but they took the time and had the concern to make sure that they were as thorough as they could be. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for. What they did was give us closure with the confidence that there wasn’t anything to be found, and that in itself is a gift to us,” said Michelle.