Public meeting addresses cleanup and rebuilding |

Public meeting addresses cleanup and rebuilding

Adam Jensen
Trevor Clark / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Alberta Rodriguez cleans off the address numbers of her house lost in the Angora fire.

Among the barrage of information detailing the rebuilding process presented to those affected by the Angora fire at a public meeting Thursday were two documents: one orange and one white.

By signing the orange document, you would deny government officials to coordinate a large scale debris removal effort and the right to enter a destroyed property. Signing the white form permits it.

El Dorado County Environmental Management will coordinate the specialized cleanup, which will necessitate the removal of hazardous materials, like heavy metals.

The cleanup is likely to include a significant presence from the California Environmental Protection Agency, whose officials at the meeting said it will not hold homeowners responsible for clean-up costs.

“This has never happened before, people. This is new and unique,” said Todd Thalhamer, waste management engineer with CalEPA. “The state has already committed to do the job; they just need your approval.”

Thalhamer put cost estimates as high as $25,000 per property, but said clean-up estimates from past fires have averaged closer to $15,000 per property.

Despite assurances that homeowners would not be held responsible for clean-up costs exceeding their insurance coverage, the estimates drew widespread groans from the standing-room-only crowd.

Thalhamer hopes to start the extensive debris removal effort by July 16 and have clean-up done in time for home foundations to be poured on Sept. 1.

“If you can pour foundation before the winter hits, then you can build through the winter,” said Thalhamer after the meeting.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Spokeswoman, Julie Regan, confirmed Thalhamer’s statement and said the potential for an extension of the grading season exists, depending on fall weather conditions.

The large crowd at Thursday’s meeting at Tahoe Valley Elementary School began to thin out after the first hour and a half, but a majority of the hands went up when El Dorado County Environmental Management Department Interim Director, Gerri Silva, asked how many people would be participating in the CalEPA program.

Some folks could be seen asking exclusively for the orange form, which places the onus of cleanup on the private sector.

Contractors came out in force to the meeting, with several companies handing out advertisements to property owners at the door and peppering Thalhamer with business cards and questions after the meeting.

Many hoped to be one of the local contractors chosen for the limited number of spots on the CalEPA crew, whose primary contractor is based out of the Bay Area.

County permitting protocols, how driveways will be handled by the cleanup, streamlined tree removal policies, insurance regulations and the options for those not seeking to rebuild were among the wide range of topics discussed during the July 5 meeting.

Many details, specific to certain properties, will require further investigation by property owners.

At the meeting’s conclusion, one man was overheard asking a woman, “What do you think?”

“Overwhelmed,” was all she said.

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