California Wildfire Disaster Recovery

Written by: jayninelessons, NES, Inc.

In June 2007 a wildfire erupted near South Lake Tahoe. The fire, known as the Angora Fire, burned 3,100 acres and destroyed 256 structures. Before rebuilding could start, tons of ash and debris had to be removed without impacting the health and safety of nearby residents and inflicting further environmental damage during the process. The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) directed the first coordinated ash and debris removal project, removing tons of ash and debris in a managed and controlled approach. NES developed a community and worker health & safety plan for the fire restoration project and monitored the debris removal activities to protect worker health and safety and to minimize off-site releases of ash containing toxic elements. One hundred percent of the 256 destroyed structures were removed in 40 days, requiring 28,000 labor hours. The work was accomplished without a single accident. In recognition of our contribution, NES was awarded an Exceptional Services Award by the CIWMB.

In October of the same year, a series of wildfires in Southern California burned over 500,000 acres, destroying 1,500 homes, killing 14, and injuring 85, including 61 ­firefighters. Once the fire was contained and extinguished, tons of debris and ash had to be removed before the rebuilding could begin. Using the work on the Angora Fire as a model, a coordinated removal project was carried out. NES was again called on to ­provide on-site health and safety ­services to ­protect workers and the community in San Diego and San Bernardino Counties. The massive removal project was completed in early 2008 with no ­significant injuries. NES received Golden Gate Partnership Program recognition from Cal/OSHA Consultation Service for implementing and maintaining an effective worksite safety ­program during the wildfire cleanup work.

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