Federal, state, and county officials continue to reach out to residents two and a half months after wildfires blazed through four counties in Northern California in an effort to ensure their questions, concerns and issues are heard and, when possible, resolved.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, first responders and state and county representatives gathered Jan. 17 at Eagle Peak Middle School in Redwood Valley, California for a community meeting.
In a near-packed cafeteria, residents listened to an agenda that included “Rebuilding 101,” trees and vegetation management and debris-removal status presentations. Some of the residents simply came to hear the updates while others came with concerns.
Col. Eric M. McFadden, commander of the Sonoma Recovery Field Office, said these meetings are an important part of the recovery process.
“We depend on and truly appreciate the active involvement in these communities,” McFadden said. “We need you to help us identify quality control issues. We can’t see everything.”
Residents should report obvious unsafe or inappropriate practices such as pool water being pumped into the storm drain or runoff during a rain event.
While different contractors working on the debris removal program have made different decisions about the type of equipment and techniques of removal, they could still be in full compliance with safety regulations and contract terms. The Corps wants residents to understand different is not always wrong or unsafe. But when it is, they want residents to speak up.
During the meeting, the Corps explained the debris removal process and timeline from site assessment to return to county.
“It’s really important that the residents understand what’s going to happen,” said Moe Adams, resident engineer at the Emergency Field Office in Redwood Valley. “We literally walked them through the process. We know these people, their victories and their challenges and we’re here for both.”
Some of the challenges residents are facing are some of the same ones being faced in the other three counties; therefore, the Corps, FEMA and other state and county representatives have attended numerous town halls and meetings throughout the region.
The Corps of Engineers has an information call line and personnel are standing by to answer your questions and address your concerns, McFadden said.
McFadden also warned residents to be aware of the risks posed by heavy construction equipment operating near work zones and the addition of truck traffic on the roads.
The Corps of Engineers, under the direction of FEMA and in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, has cleared 55 percent of the approved 318 properties in Mendocino County enrolled in the Consolidated Debris Removal Program with 117 properties returned to the county.
“We are committed, as part of a whole community effort, to accomplish everything in our power to help you move on and rebuild your houses and your lives,” McFadden said.
Debris removal is expected to be complete across the four counties in March.