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Boulder County explains how debris removal will work

The current plan starts March 7 and will end in July.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Nearly two months after the Marshall Fire destroyed nearly 1,100 homes, Boulder County is ready to start the massive coordinated debris removal program.

"The county will do almost everything for you and work from the permitting at the beginning to the cleanup and grading of your property at the end," Andrew Barth from Boulder County Public Works said.

Barth said the plan is to start on March 7 and continue through the end of July. With the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Barth said Boulder County has contracted with a company called DRC Emergency Services.

Boulder County will charge insurance companies for removal costs if a homeowner is covered. Otherwise, he said costs will be supported by FEMA.

The deadline to sign up for the Boulder County program is by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 25.

We asked Barth to talk about the process.

>9NEWS edited the responses for length and clarity

How will the county decide where to start debris removal?

Barth: We really want to make this as equitable and as efficient as possible, but also make sure we’re getting rid of material that is going to cause the most problems to public health as soon as possible.

We're looking at a lot of factors in how we'll be moving through our communities, highest need as far as safety, as far as public safety goes if there's a lot of toxic materials left around, if there was heavy metals, propane tanks as such. We'll get into those dangerous areas. We also want to make sure we attach areas close to waterways.

But, we also want to this with a social and economic justice component as well. We don't want to just start in a higher income area and move to lower. We're going to be starting throughout the areas.

What measures are being taken to reduce harm to the environment?

Barth: We have the measures in place to make sure that none of that material is released to the air, into the water that we’re watching it closely. Our own health department will be setting up air monitors in the clean-up zone. Not just taking it out, but also storing it and putting it away, getting to it to a safe place.

They’ll be hosing down material to get it to not become airborne then we will establish storm water protection so that none of that wetted material runs off. As we scoop it up, make sure that nothing is moving except for what we're picking up from that spot to the truck cover the truck and take it out.

So, we’ll make sure things that can be recycled will be recycled. Things that can be composted will be composted  and those nasty things that can’t be, find their way to a safe place in a certified landfill.

Why is Boulder County requiring those who use private contractors to get approval?

Barth: It just really helps us keep track of this effort and where everybody’s at. We just want to know how the cleanup is going across all jurisdictions making sure we’re all getting to the end that we want so people could start rebuilding.

This clean up is a considerably important phase but actually getting people to the point where they’re putting nails in boards at their home site is truly the most important phase of this cleanup.

After estimating removal costs, will Boulder County charge homeowners out-of-pocket expenses if their insurance doesn't cover the costs for debris removal?

Barth: No. You'll provide us with that line item whatever it is. If it's a $20,000 line item and the and it's a $50,000 clean-up, we'll take the $20,000 and we'll find the $30,000.

There's a lot of people uninsured [for debris removal] and under insured and through this program we'll be able to cover those costs for those people. That is the big thing.

It’s gonna cost a lot of money to rebuild and that’s really the focal point of this recovery effort is the rebuild. So, we really want to make sure everybody gets a fair chance to rebuild using the funds that they have available.

We want to help alleviate any fears, any worries cause people have gone through enough.

Barth said each home site will be treated individually. Insurance funding from one property cleanup will not be used to pay for another property's cleanup, according to Barth. He said the county plans to release a schedule of operations next week so residents will have a general idea of when their clean-up will take place.

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