By Bruce Lieberman
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
November 9, 2007
FALLBROOK – At a mobile home park devastated by the Rice Canyon fire, the county yesterday launched an aggressive campaign to clear hazardous waste and debris from properties countywide that burned in the recent wildfires.
Online: For information on the county debris removal program, cleanup tips and community workshop dates, go to www.sdcountyrecovery.com
Debris Removal Hotline: (877) 308-8111 The county is offering to collect hazardous waste from nearly 1,700 properties at no cost to homeowners. The county is also offering to clear nonhazardous debris from about 1,000 homes in unincorporated areas.
Yesterday morning, hazardous-waste specialists in white Tyvek suits, hardhats, masks and boots sifted through ash and debris at Valley Oaks Mobile Ranch at 3909 Reche Road, which lost half its 212 homes.
“We are rebuilding. We love this community,” said Grace Gabrielli, a co-owner of the park. “Our focus right now is to get the debris removed as quickly as possible.”
The $30 million project is the first of its kind in the county and is modeled after a program developed in the wake of the Lake Tahoe fires this summer, said Gary Erbeck, director of the county's Department of Environmental Health. The state will kick in $23 million, and the county will pay for the rest, he said.
The countywide cleanup will progress in two stages. The first, which began yesterday and is scheduled to end by Thanksgiving, will clear properties of hazardous waste such as pool chemicals, propane tanks, aerosol cans, fire extinguishers, car batteries, paints, solvents, pesticides, fertilizers, fluorescent lights and household cleaners.
The second phase, scheduled to begin later this month and conclude at the end of the year, will clear properties of remaining debris. Crews will water down properties to control dust and ash, and debris trucks will be sealed so material isn't released on roadways, Erbeck said.
Work crews are being supervised by officials with the county Department of Environmental Health, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Three strike teams totaling about 125 people are being deployed throughout the county. Crews will work from 7 a.m. until nightfall six days a week, Erbeck said.
Homeowners who lost their houses have been notified of the program, how it works and how to opt out of the service if they don't want it.
People who choose to clean up their properties on their own must follow county guidelines, which are available at local assistance centers and on the Internet at
County officials warned those who do their own cleaning to be cautious.
Many household chemicals vaporized in the fires, but hazardous waste and ash can contain numerous toxins. They include asbestos and concentrated amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, beryllium, copper, chromium, cadmium, lead and zinc.
Burned appliances and automobiles can contain additional toxins, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used as refrigerants; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found within motor capacitors and fluorescent light ballasts; used oils; sodium azide canisters in unspent automobile air bags; antifreeze; and mercury used in thermometers, thermostats, barometers, electrical switches and batteries.