By Keldine Hull
One year after the Woolsey Fire burned almost 100,000 acres of land in the Santa Monica Mountains, damaging 112 miles of trails, a second phase of the recovery effort is reportedly underway. The first phase began immediately after the fire.
“Strict environmental rules govern the treatment of contaminated sites,” the National Park Service (NPS) said in a news release. “The process involves rigorous testing before and after treatment to ensure that materials are disposed of properly and that the site is cleaned to accepted standards.”
Before debris can be removed, necessary testing must be conducted first. “Since all buildings have toxins in them when they burn, testing for hazardous materials is a critical step that must be taken prior to the removal of any of the debris,” Park Superintendent David Szymanski explained. “As caretakers for the public’s lands, we are required to guarantee that all toxins have been removed. We can’t just use our park equipment and haul everything off.”
Once the testing process is completed early next year, debris removal from 30 structures and outbuildings is slated to begin by spring 2020. Lead Builders, Inc., a Thousand Oaks based business, was awarded a $1.6 million contract in September to remove and haul debris from different locations throughout the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. According to the NPS, the debris consists of vegetation, ash, contaminated soil, trees that prohibit work performance, household hazardous waste and electric waste.
“The park has focused on reopening trails and park sites,” the NPS continued. “Over the past year, park rangers worked to open these trails, clear roads, stabilize hillsides, repair culverts and conduct surveys on bridges that were in need of repair.” To date, 103 miles of the 112 that burned in the fire have reopened. Two more park units, Peter Strauss Ranch and Rocky Oaks, are expected to open before Thanksgiving.