SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — Crews are starting the second phase of cleanup after the devastating fires in Santa Rosa and some promising numbers are coming in.
The Environmental Protection Agency has cleared hazardous waste from 63 percent of homes in Sonoma County.
Contractors are hailing it as a huge step toward a return to normalcy. They are hoping thousands of homeowners who have sign paperwork allowing FEMA on their property, will change their mind.
Jason Meyers, his wife and their two kids just moved into this Coffey Park cul-de-sac 2 years ago. On warm summer nights they’d sit here and watch the kids playing out front.
“Had a little table set up so we could sit here as neighbors,” says Meyers, tearing up. “So yeah we want to get back here quick.”
Next door to the Meyers’ home is the very first house to enter Phase 2 in Coffey Park.
Phase 2 is debris removal, and can only begin after the EPA has cleared the home of hazardous waste and the owner signs a right of entry form allowing FEMA on the premises.
“It’s a very important day,” says Rick Brown, a spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers. “I think it’ll help folks make a decision one way or the other.”
So far, only 1600 people of more than 5000 residential property owners in Sonoma County have signed a right of entry form.
“We understand the anxiousness the frustration,” he says.
Brown says he hopes more people will sign up for this free service. The deadline is November 13th.
Contractors say the best case scenario is to get a block of homes cleared in one fell swoop, but without signed paperwork they have to skip around.
“If we have to jump property to property that will just slow us down and it’s not cost effective for us to do that,” say FEMA Sonoma County district supervisor Robert Pesapane.
The goal is to have all debris removed by early 2018.
Jason says if that happens he can start to rebuild his home in the Spring.
“We want to be right back here as soon as possible.”