Humboldt Beacon (http://www.humboldtbeacon.com)

California fire cleanup reaches new step: Clearing ruins


By Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

Friday, November 10, 2017

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) Rumbling bulldozers have started scraping up the ash, charred wood and crumbled bricks left from thousands of homes and buildings destroyed by wildfires in California wine country.

The second phase of cleanup launched this week in a Santa Rosa neighborhood that saw some of the worst destruction last month.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finished the first phase at most properties in hard-hit areas, with crews carting away hazardous waste.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Rick Brown says that allowed heavy equipment to start moving in.

Brown says crews are scraping up foundations and the top layer of ash, debris and soil. Soil samples will be tested for contaminants such as asbestos or other metals and chemicals.

Agencies also are sampling for air contamination and any hazardous water runoff into waterways.