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Today is the last day for Dixie Fire survivors to sign up for government-sponsored debris removal program 

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Noah Berger
/
AP Photo
A church marquee stands among buildings destroyed by the Dixie Fire in the Sierra Nevada town of Greenville.

The last chance for those affected by the Dixie Fire to sign up for debris removal through the state’s government-sponsored program is Nov. 30 by close of business. The program involves no out of pocket cost to property owners. After the deadline, property owners will no longer be eligible for financial assistance. Those who are opting for the other available program – which is private and done at the homeowners expense – also need to indicate their choice by the same deadline. If neither program is chosen, residents could find themselves in an abatement process.

NSPR’s Sarah Bohannon recently spoke with Gabriel Hydrick, Plumas County Administrator, to learn more about each program, how many people still need to sign up for debris removal and where the county currently is in the clean up process.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

On the difference between the Right of Entry (government-sponsored) and Alternative (private) debris removal programs

The alternative program you work with the insurance, whatever your insurance covers or does not cover. And of course, any gaps will have to be made up by the homeowner somehow, whether they have cash, whether they can get a loan of sorts or maybe they can get assistance from family members. There may be some help from some foundations, local foundations, I don't want to speak on their behalf, but know that they're out there and willing and able to help some people. So it's going to be a lot more work for folks that go through the “alt” program because they're going to have to make up any difference that they may be lacking. With the ROE program (government-sponsored), it's pretty simple, straightforward. Sign up. Fill out the ‘Right of Entry' form. Have that submitted. That gets pushed to the state. State will accept it or not, and work with folks. And then from there, the time will be scheduled to get the property cleaned up and get it all hauled out for them.

On what will happen if the deadline is missed 

It’s an abatement process, there's an appeal process, there are notices, letters go out. You work with the county and it brings the courts in, because warrants may be needed to access properties. We attempt to work with the property owner, and that depends upon how cooperative the property owner is. It can be real simple if they clean up and take care of the notices of violations. If they don't, then that's where we all get dragged into the abatement process. In the end, the property owner is going to be charged with all costs for cleanup and abatement. And that's according to the county Master Fee Schedule for the departments that are engaged in the abatement process. Will insurance cover that? I don't know. I would kind of doubt it. But again, those costs are going to come back to the property owner somehow. And the last thing is, if the property owner doesn't cover those costs, then the county can place a lien against the property. And that's something you don't want as well, a lien against your property. So again, the ROE program, the government program, is really just the simplest, it's the quickest. The state team has 10 contractors, 10 teams out doing cleanup and they’re moving very quick. We’re used to government being very long and slow and drawn out. In this case, they're actually very fast.

On the reason for the deadline 

We have to make sure that the contractors are in play on both sides, both programs, that they're in play and that they're able to perform the work that they need to, and then we have to have a deadline for them. We can't drag this cleanup out forever. So it does behoove the folks to get engaged in one of those programs as quick as possible. And if not, then they're going to get pushed into an abatement program where the costs will come back on them. And that's a long drawn out process. It's expensive. It's ugly for the property owner and for the county. It's a process we don't want to go through. But what it comes down to is an environmental and health and safety issue, an emergency, and so of course we're gonna go after that and clean it up so that the community doesn't suffer as well.

On whether the deadline will be extended again 

You know, they're saying that this is the final one. It's nice to have the extension because it does give a little bit of time. Life has been very hectic for a lot of folks. But at the same time, when we keep extending deadlines, which the government often does across the board, people kind of take their time, you know, a lot of times we're deadline driven as individuals. So this is the last one from what I've seen. They’re very serious on the November deadline. I don't see it being pushed back.

On how many people still need to sign up for debris removal 

It looks like we're almost 300 short. We have 983 owners that have been reached out to, and 709 have submitted and been approved for the state program. I know that there's a handful that are going the alternative route. So we could be maybe 200 to 300 short still.

On the number of properties in the burn scar that have been cleaned 

It's over 100 parcels already. They started about three weeks ago cleaning up and they've gotten over 100 parcels. Some folks may think, ‘well, that doesn't sound like much’, but you have to consider that they're pulling out fireplaces, they're pulling out walls. They’re pulling out foundations and they're pulling out several inches of soil as well. So it's a lot more intense than maybe what folks may initially think about hearing debris removal, but they're over 100. And that was, I think, four or five days ago that I heard that. So I imagine they're probably mid-100 to maybe 200 at this point.

On whether properties that only had trees destroyed or damaged in the fire can be signed up for debris removal 

That’s correct. And that'll help folks as well. My understanding is this is relatively new for the state to go after trees and move trees. We’re used to the state dragging its feet and being slow, but I’ll tell you, I have nothing but kudos and sincere appreciation for the state Cal OES team ... What we're seeing is folks are really underinsured in the Greenville area. And this is where it would be beneficial for folks, even if they have hesitancy towards the government, which I can understand and appreciate. But we're here to just clean things up and get us back on our feet.

Property owners with questions or concerns about debris removal can call (530)-283-7080 or email roe@countyofplumas.com