Thomas Fire Incident Environmental and Debris Monitoring
Tetra Tech is providing its client, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), innovative and technical debris removal solutions for properties destroyed by the Thomas Fire Incident in Ventura County, California.
The 2017 Thomas Fire burned more than 281,000 acres and destroyed 1,063 structures throughout the City and County of Ventura and nearby areas. CalRecycle was tasked by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to manage the removal of fire debris material from structures destroyed by the Thomas Fire. CalRecycle hired Tetra Tech to help expedite this effort in compliance with Cal OES and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protocol and requirements, as well as applicable environmental regulations.
Every year California experiences devastating wildfires that claim lives, destroy property, and harm the environment. Over the past three years, Tetra Tech has assembled an interdisciplinary team to support comprehensive wildfire response on behalf of state agencies conducting recovery efforts. For the Thomas Fire, Tetra Tech has streamlined environmental and debris management activities, focusing on exact work products to rapidly deliver timely and accurate project information through an integrated and reliable information management system.
Tetra Tech is directing environmental monitoring, cleanup, and debris removal operations on behalf of CalRecycle for both private and commercial burned parcels. Tetra Tech provides this support within Incident Command System roles, including command, operations, and planning. Our team coordinates waste streams and appropriate landfill disposals; conducts hazard assessments; monitors demolition, structural ash, and debris removal contractors; manages data; performs real-time air monitoring; and collects soil confirmation samples from cleaned properties to ensure safe transfer back to their owners. This complex, multifaceted project requires Tetra Tech to continuously assess myriad logistical, regulatory, and technical challenges and develop solutions for CalRecycle to quickly restore property ownership to the residents of Ventura County.
As the primary consultant to CalRecycle, Tetra Tech is overseeing two large structural ash and debris removal contractors for this multi-agency response. During this cleanup, Tetra Tech collected real-time air quality data using telemetry with community air monitoring stations. This information was linked to the Ventura County website to provide City and County of Ventura environmental personnel and the community complete transparency on real-time air quality levels during debris removal operations. Tetra Tech also completed real-time, electronic site documentation prior to entering hot zones within debris removal sites. This documentation helps us efficiently plan and coordinate debris removal resources.
Tetra Tech specialists have developed work plans, community plans, quality assurance plans, field sampling plans, maps, and health and safety plans to deliver safe, efficient, and compliant project operations. We have taken a pragmatic approach to staffing this response, which at its peak required more than 100 on-site staff. Our team focuses on matching the appropriate technical staff with the right task. Tetra Tech also has hired workers from the local community, some of whom were directly affected by the fire.
This project has approximately 700 rights-of-entry associated with the response, leaving no room for error in environmental background sampling, site sketches, field sheets, calibration and maintenance of equipment, and data collection and reporting. We are providing several levels of quality review on our deliverables, with a focus on accuracy and efficiency. Much of the field data now is collected electronically, with immediate uploads, rapid quality reviews, and near-real-time sharing with our CalRecycle client and city and community stakeholders.
While cleanup of burned properties is at the forefront of the Thomas Fire Incident, Tetra Tech is using sound environmental science and data innovation to complete multiple tasks on behalf of CalRecycle. This work includes rigorous health, safety, and environmental assessments, both for workers on site and for the surrounding community; real-time data collection; evaluation of public health effects and impacts; and proper site and waste management to confirm that structural ash and debris is properly inspected and disposed. The Thomas Fire Incident is a dynamic project with priorities and objectives that can change daily and even hourly. Tetra Tech’s experts provide continuous support to CalRecycle with the shared goal of delivering responsive, safe, and cost-effective solutions to Ventura residents.