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The job’s still not done…but they’re getting there…

As EPA’s work winds down, some response crews remain to handle final cleanups

(Salem, OR – November 24, 2020)   As EPA pauses to retool its wildfire household hazardous waste recovery operations for the Thanksgiving holiday, agency officials  are reflecting on the results achieved by cleanup teams over the past 90 days in Oregon. After the holiday, EPA will continue reducing their “footprint” in the state, with many crews already departing to return to their normal schedules, teams and families.

Since mobilizing on September 24 by FEMA “Mission Assignment,” 17 EPA field recovery teams, working 12-hour days, seven days a week, have retrieved and removed household hazardous waste from over 2300 fire-ravaged parcels in eight Oregon counties.  In addition, EPA teams stabilized and consolidated ash and debris from more than 230 parcels along Oregon waterways – including five miles of the Bear Creek riparian area in Jackson County – protecting water quality from toxic runoff.  In all, EPA mobilized over 250 responders, both virtually and in the field, from all over the country to support response operations.

According to EPA Incident Commander, Randy Nattis, the Agency has been proud to help Oregon recover from the devastating fall wildfires, crediting local support and guidance as critical to EPA’s success. 

“Make no mistake, I couldn’t be prouder of our work and what  our teams have accomplished,” said EPA’s Nattis. “But we are standing on the shoulders of the County Public Works directors, DEQ On-Scene Coordinators, FEMA disaster officials, our support contractors and countless Oregon responders. Projects of this size, scope and scale demand ultimate teamwork. And we couldn’t have asked for better, more resilient partners than Oregonians.”

With Step 2 of the Oregon state-managed cleanup getting underway, Step 2 cleanup crews are expected to begin clearing properties throughout wildfire impacted areas in mid-December, removing hazard trees, ash and debris.  EPA’s presence will remain at a more compact profile, with several smaller mobile crews remaining to respond to any additional properties that still need attention. EPA crews will also back up ODOT’s contractors as they start removing heavy debris, cars and appliances and find hidden household hazardous waste, cylinders, ammunition or other hazardous materials.

For more information about EPA’s Step 1 work, please visit our 2020 Fire Recovery Story Map . For more information about Oregon’s Step 2 work please visit the 2020 Oregon Wildfire Recovery website or call the Wildfire Debris Cleanup Hotline at 503-934-1700.

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