To speed up completion, do not disturb

Once the ash and debris has been removed from your property, it is understandable to think that starting some additional work will speed up the rebuilding process, but the opposite is actually true!


Ash and debris from structures and property burned by fires contain concentrated amounts of heavy metals like arsenic, copper, lead, mercury and zinc. These metals can severely contaminate the soil beneath the ash and debris piles, causing long-term environmental, and health and safety impacts.


To ensure the contaminated ash is completely removed and the lot is safe to rebuild, Debris Management Task Force (DMTF) crews scrape three to six inches of soil from the ash and debris footprint and send samples to state-approved labs for analysis. If the soil tests come back positive for heavy metals or other contaminants, more soil is removed and the site is retested until it comes back clear of contaminants.


Once the debris and ash are removed, soil sampling is tagged from specific locations on the lot. If sample results from one portion of the lot come back positive, only that section needs to be re-scraped. If crews return to re-scrape that section and the footprint has been disturbed – either by soil being moved or trees being felled into the footprint – the entire lot has to be re-scraped and retested. This will significantly slow down your completion timeline.


We understand your urgency to move forward, but there are specific steps that have to be completed before you can safely and legally begin rebuilding. Waiting for us to provide the all-clear will ultimately speed up your own completion and allow our crews to move on to helping your neighbors more quickly.


The berm shown in the photo above was created after crews scraped the soil but before testing results were back. When crews returned to re-scrape a specific area of the lot, the work done to create the berm meant crews had to re-scrape and test the entire lot.

Wildfire waste and debris removal

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to remove hazardous waste, and ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistance.