Officials warn people to be prepared before sifting through ash and fire debris

PHOENIX, Ore. — Before going through any fire debris if your home burned down, officials say there are some things you need to know.

The main concern while cleaning up is people’s safety, as county officials tell me hazardous materials are lurking in the ashes and may not be visible.

“We want people to take the proper steps,” said Rogue Disposal Director of Governmental Affairs and Marketing, Garry Penning.

It’s been just over 2 weeks since the Almeda Fire burned over 2,000 residential homes.
People are beginning to go back and clean up what’s left. Penning says you need to do it the right way.

“We have people showing up at our transfer station and landfill with fire debris, but they don’t have proper documentation,” said Penning.
He says state licensed contractors must sign off that fire debris isn’t hazardous before it will be accepted at Rogue Disposal.

Hazardous materials are considered anything contaminated with asbestos, mercury or pesticides.
Penning also warns Rogue Disposal won’t take heavy metals.

As for insurance and FEMA assistance, the Director of the Emergency Operations Center for Jackson County says people should definitely check in with both entities before messing with debris.

“[They should be] coordinating with their insurance company to ensure that claims will be paid and these costs will be covered. The biggest thing I would recommend right now? Don’t run out and do this and assume someone will cover it,” said Vial.

Vial says people should also be wearing protective clothing, such as long pants, boots, gloves and face coverings if they’re going through debris.
If you’re not comfortable going it yourself, he suggests you hire certified professionals.

“We know some folks want to re-build, we understand that, but we gotta follow this process,” said Penning.

Penning wants to remind people they must have an account at Rogue Disposal before any waste or debris can be accepted.
He suggests people contact Biomass One and Schnitzer Steel to get rid of heavy metals and other items Rogue Disposal cannot accept.

NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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