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Thomas Fire, California

March 9, 2018

In early December 2017, a large wildfire spread throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Southern California, leaving a massive cleanup and re-construction effort that continues until today. This wildfire, known as the Thomas Fire, burned around 440 square miles—nearly 300,000 acres—becoming the largest wildfire recorded in California’s history. It destroyed over one thousand structures, caused 22 deaths (directly/indirectly), and two injuries. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, much like many other Southern California fires, very strong Santa Ana winds caused it to spread rapidly. This cleanup effort continues as we write this article, costing the state and cities an enormous amount. The process has required crucial cooperation between the government, school districts, and local citizens.

Monzon and Son Enterprises are very proud to have provided 25 dirt trucks, 18 end dumps and 7 Super Ten’s for this cleanup, in partnership with our customer, National Demolition. Since early January 2018, our crews have been dedicating over 70 hours per week to help the local community. “We have 25 drivers who are working 12-hour straight shifts,” says Kelvin Monzon, President of Monzon and Son. “The sights of homes being burnt down, people who have lost their homes is just heartbreaking. We will probably be on site till April this year and our focus is to ensure the job gets done right.” “It looks like a war zone, burnt down to ashes and we want to help,” says Kelvin.

The effort to clean up the Thomas Fire is estimated to have cost local communities nearly $200 million and resulted in over 100,000 residential evacuations. In Ventura County alone, recent statistics show that fire crews cleaned up over 50 million pounds of debris to date. This includes nearly 15,000 tons of ash, soil, and other debris, as well as over 10,000 tons of concrete and hundreds of tons of metal. This major cleanup requires a crucial, cross-collaborative effort. Fire crews are not the only parties at work. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (known as CalRecycle), has commissioned 41 private contractor crews to help fire crews clear the debris. CalRecycle also sent out warnings to homeowners requesting they contribute to the effort, informing them of the hazards that may arise. For their efforts, CalRecycle has awarded certificates to homeowners to help them rebuild their properties. This cross-collaboration between fire crews, private groups, and homeowners has helped facilitate the ongoing cleanup of the deadly wreckage caused by the Thomas Fire.

School districts play a key role. Millions of dollars have poured in; it was important to ensure schools were safe and inhabitable, so students and staff alike could return. In Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, some students were out for many weeks, due to the ash and debris that ravaged their schools. The Thomas Fire overlapped the winter holidays, so many schools worked during that time to clean up the debris and ash, enabling students to return safely and on-time in early January 2018. The cleanup effort for schools varied by school and district, depending on the impact of the fire. Schools commissioned hygienists to assess air quality and draft cleanup proposals. This effort ended up costing school districts millions of dollars—Ventura Unified, for example, hired outside contractors, which amounted to nearly $13 million in expenses. This cost did not include other vital expenditure on heating/cooling, lost hours for staff, lost books, food, and hygienist costs. In the end, schools were as clean or cleaner than they were before the fire. All of this expense paid off; all of the debris was removed and students were able to return to a stable environment with safe air quality.