Los Angeles

LA County Moves to Expedite Woolsey Fire Recovery

"Today we are taking several steps in order to ensure that the Woolsey Fire recovery effort moves forward as quickly and safely as possible."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two emergency motions Tuesday aimed at expediting recovery efforts in areas damaged by the Woolsey Fire.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents communities in the burn area, recommended both actions.

The first allows public works staffers to add and extend up to $60 million in contracts to repair and reconstruct roads, bridges, flood control systems and other infrastructure and haul away debris. The second adopts an ordinance designed to ensure that potentially toxic debris is properly removed.

"Today we are taking several steps in order to ensure that the Woolsey Fire recovery effort moves forward as quickly and safely as possible," Kuehl said. "Hundreds of residents have lost their homes. Many more have had their homes damaged and their lives seriously disrupted. Our work now is designed to make the work of the recovery move as smoothly and quickly as possible."

The infrastructure motion lets the county skip a competitive process in soliciting bids for work in order to act quickly.

It also authorizes public works personnel to waive water bill charges or cut excessive water use charges to normal rates for the fire billing cycle.

Waivers are intended for residents whose homes were substantially damaged or destroyed, while rate cuts are upon request by customers in the fire zone.

The fire debris ordinance was needed to implement a county declaration of a local health emergency that prohibits property owners from removing fire debris until their properties have been inspected for hazardous materials.

After inspection, homeowners can either participate in a state-sponsored clean-up program or obtain permission from the county to remove debris.

Officials said standards are needed to protect the environment and public health.

"Debris and ash from residential and commercial structure fires can contain hazardous substances and the detrimental health effects of hazardous substances released after a wildfire are well-documented and demand immediate remediation to address clear and imminent danger," according to the motion.

The board directed staffers to report back biweekly on the recovery effort.

The 96,949-acre Woolsey Fire -- which broke out Nov. 8 in Ventura County and quickly spread into Los Angeles County -- killed three civilians in Malibu, injured three firefighters, destroyed 1,643 structures and damaged 364 others.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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