Toxic Cleanup From California’s Wildfires Expected to Take Until 2018

Image via AP.

California’s wildfires are still resulting in devastation
across the state, with at least 42 dead and another 50 missing,
in addition to 6,900 structures that have been burned to the

But cooler temperatures and higher levels of humidity have
allowed firefighters to contain around 85 percent
of the once-uncontrollable blazes, and now, federal and local
authorities are starting to turn their attention to the long,
arduous process of recovering from the immense damage the fires
have wrought.

FEMA announced on Thursday that the fires in and around Sonoma
County currently rank fourth on their list of disasters,
measured by damage and number of people killed in a single
incident. Santa Rosa city council member Chris Rogers wrote on Facebook that
cleanup will begin “within the next few weeks, with a goal of
being done by early 2018.” The Army Corps of Engineers will
handle the first wave of toxic testing before handing the
recovery effort over to CalRecycle, the umbrella organization
that manages the state’s recycling and waste management

Evacuees are also eager to return to their demolished homes in
hopes of salvaging at least some items from the rubble. As
Yvette Escutia told NBC Bay Area:

“It’s just memories that we would like to get. My wedding
ring is still there, my charm bracelet that my husband gave
me when my son was born. Little things like that. We know
we’re not going to be able to repair anything that was burned
or anything but I wish that, I hope that my ring is still
there,” Escutia said.

Meanwhile, the Sonoma County sheriff’s office issued a
statement yesterday slamming ICE for making an already terrible
situation worse. In a post on Facebook, Sonoma
County Sheriff Rob Giordano wrote:

ICE attacked the Sheriff’s Office in the midst of the largest
natural disaster this county has ever experienced. Tens of
thousands of people have been evacuated, many people have
lost their homes and 23 people have died from this firestorm.
ICE’s misleading statement stirs fear in some of our
community members who are already exhausted and scared.

According to the post, a man named Jesus Gonzalez was arrested
on suspicion of starting a fire in a park to keep himself warm,
though there’s no evidence to suggest that his alleged actions
triggered the disaster. But ICE accused the sheriff’s office
of leaving “their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals
and preventable crimes,” writing that Gonzalez had been
released despite the agency requesting he be held.

Actually, Giordano said, ICE bungled the detainer by failing to
have it signed by a judge, rendering it useless, in addition to
the fact that Gonzalez is still being held on $200,000 bail.
Also, Giordano said, there is no basis for the accusation that
Gonzalez is responsible for the wildfire, aside from an
inflammatory story in
Breitbart. From the Los Angeles

“There is a story out there that he’s the arsonist in these
fires. That’s not the case. There’s no indication he’s
related to these fires at all,” Giordano said of Gonzalez. “I
wanted to kill that speculation right now, so we didn’t have
things running too far out of control.”

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