‘What a difference four weeks makes’: Debris removal stepped up | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘What a difference four weeks makes’: Debris removal stepped up

Adam Jensen
Water is constantly sprayed over the entire work area. / Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The hum of heavy machinery provided the appropriate backdrop for a press conference on Friday, as state and county officials updated the more than $7 million effort to remove debris from homes destroyed in the Angora fire.

Parcels on Pyramid Court, where the press conference was held, have been transformed from tangled heaps of ash and wreckage into dirt lots with driveways. While the lots are not yet ready to build on, they are approaching an all-important county approval allowing on-the-ground reconstruction.

“What a difference four weeks makes,” said El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago at the start of the conference. “Today you are seeing miracles happen. We will rebuild and recover.”

As of Friday, 205 property owners had signed up to participate in the program sponsored by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, representing 80 percent of the homes destroyed in the blaze. Officials hope to have all lots ready for foundations by Sept. 1.

“I could not do this without local support,” said Todd Thalhamer, the waste management engineer heading the project, after the press conference. “(Sept.1) is a goal. We intend to meet our objectives.”

Although signs of progress are encouraging, debris removal is just getting started, Thalhamer said.

He estimates one house per crew each day can be cleared, although larger properties take extra time, he explained.

Thalhamer said one approximately 3,000-square-foot destroyed home took a crew two days to remove debris. Cleanup crews increased from two to six last week and will grow to eight this week, Thalhamer added.

“Our focus has been, let us take care of the debris removal; you work on refocusing your energy to rebuild,” said Gerri Silva, director of the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department.

Tree removal is not part of the CIWMB project. Plans for that portion of the rebuilding process are currently being developed by El Dorado County, Santiago said.

By the numbers (as of July 20):

255: Properties requiring debris removal

205: Property owners registered for the CIWMB-led debris removal program

89: Properties ready for debris removal

11: Properties where debris removal is currently underway

7: Properties where all debris had been removed

10: Properties in the sampling confirmation stage

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