After the Fire

The County of Los Angeles understands that the process of rebuilding after a disaster can feel cumbersome and frustrating. To help clarify the process, Los Angeles County has developed this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page with answers to commonly asked questions. Every property is unique, so the answers below may need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Los Angeles County will make every reasonable effort to allow fire victims to rebuild. Updates will be made to this document as additional information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Information

Below is the contact information for key agencies involved in your rebuilding effort.
  • Building & Grading/Drainage: Local LA County Public Works Building and Safety offices can be found at LA County Public Works Building and Safety office
  • Septic Systems: Los Angeles County Environmental Health (626) 430-5380
  • Fire Prevention: Los Angeles County Fire Headquarters (323) 890-4132. Local district office numbers may be found at https://fire.lacounty.gov
  • Geology & Soils: Los Angeles County Public Works Geotechnical & Materials Engineering (626) 458-4925.
  • Planning and Zoning: Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning: (213) 974-6411. Local office numbers may be found at: planning.lacounty.gov
  • Fire Debris Removal: (888) CLEANLA / (888) 253-2652 https://www.lacounty.gov/recovery/

Household Hazardous Waste Assessment and Removal (Phase I)

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is coordinating fire debris assessment and household hazardous waste removal activities to provide the necessary clearances for the safe removal of demolition/fire debris.
  • Inspections began during the week of December 3rd and could take several weeks or months to complete depending on your location. Inspectors will be going door to door so you will not have to schedule an appointment.
  • Property owners cannot opt out of household hazardous waste assessment and removal activities.
There is no cost to the residential property owner for this work and you do not need to file a request to participate.
No, this is a coordinated effort with federal, State & local agencies. These agencies started the assessment on December 3, 2018 on all affected areas using an orderly process (e.g. street by street).
A yellow assessment form will be posted on the property. This means that your property has been assessed and household hazardous waste (HHW) and asbestos removed (see conditions below). HHW can include propane tanks, batteries, paints, fuels, oils, paint thinner, compressed gas cylinders, or aerosol cans. Any HHW that was accessible and identifiable was removed from your property.
If all the contents of hazardous materials were consumed in the fire and no longer pose a hazard, the empty tank or container will be marked with a white "X" and removed during the general debris removal operation of Phase II.
Each assessment team has a Certified Asbestos Consultant (CAC) that screens the debris pile for asbestos containing material (ACM). If large, easily identifiable pieces of asbestos are identified by the CAC, they are marked with pink paint. If asbestos is spread throughout the debris pile, it is also identified with pink paint. Yellow “Caution” tape will be placed around the area where it is located. Depending on the size and distribution of the ACM, it will be handled as follows:
  • If only large, easily identifiable pieces of ACM are identified on your property, they will be removed by an asbestos removal contractor.
  • If asbestos is identified throughout the debris pile, it will be addressed during general debris removal operations.

Consolidated Debris Removal Program

The Consolidated Debris Removal Program consist of two phases: removal of household hazardous waste and removal of other fire-related debris.
  • In Phase I, local government, state and federal agencies have organized teams of experts from the California State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to inspect impacted properties and remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment such as batteries, herbicide, pesticide, propane tanks, asbestos siding, and paints. Phase I is automatic and includes both residential and commercial properties that have been destroyed by the fires.
  • In Phase II, CalOES, FEMA, and local officials will coordinate with the State’s Debris Task Force and its Debris Management Teams (DMT) to conduct fire-related debris removal from your property if you have elected to participate in the program by signing a Right of Entry Form.

For Phase I (household hazardous waste): You do not need to do anything to have household hazardous waste removed from your property. Operations are automatic and already underway.

For Phase II (remaining debris and ash): Contact your City officials or Los Angeles County Public Works at 626-979-5370 to get a Right-of- Entry (ROE) form or download the form at https://lacounty.gov/recovery. You will fill out the form to grant government contractors access to your property to conduct the debris removal.

Household hazardous waste is waste from houses that poses a threat to public health, animals, or the environment. Hazardous waste includes chemicals that are ignitable, toxic, corrosive, or reactive. Examples include pool chemicals, car batteries, antifreeze, used oil filters, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, propane tanks, disinfectants, aerosols, paint, bleach, and ammunition.

Household hazardous waste must be removed without delay to protect public health and safety. This is an emergency protective measure. Hazardous waste could have significant long-term environmental impacts and should not be combined with the waste from the general clean-up that is going to the landfill.

Removal of hazardous waste from the fire debris prevents these environmental contaminants from polluting the environment, and protects the workers and the public from exposure during debris removal efforts

Removal crews are specifically certified to handle household hazardous waste.

Crews have already begun removal of hazardous household waste. Removal of fire debris, other than hazardous household waste, is scheduled to begin in January of 2019.

There are a number of factors that determine when your lot will be scheduled for debris removal. Contractors are responsible for planning their work, based on priorities set by Cal OES and partners, with input from local government and city governments, to maximize efficiency.
Crews scrape 3 – 6” of soil from the ash footprint and samples are sent to a state-approved lab for analysis. The results are compared against background samples taken from areas in the vicinity that are not directly impacted by fire to ensure that all contaminated ash was removed. If necessary, more soil is removed and the site is retested until it comes back clear of contaminants. All soil testing results are returned to the DMT for final review and validation.
Once the DMT have ensured that contractors have removed all debris and soil testing meets California state standards, contractors will return to install erosion control methods. The DMT will then report to your local government that your lot is clear. Your local government will then notify you that your property is safe and ready for rebuilding.
The operational crews will attempt to contact you 24-48 hours prior to accessing your property. You are expected to ensure crews are able to access your property by unlocking gates and/or providing access codes.

Health and Safety

Safe sifting through your property will NOT jeopardize your claims for disaster assistance. Property owners who desire to search debris for possible salvageable items should do so with caution and with proper protective gear: eye protection, masks, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Residents should minimize contact with fire debris, which may contain materials that can be hazardous to your health. For more information visit:

The safety of the general public and workers is a priority during debris operations. To prevent safety hazards, the public is encouraged to stay away from areas where debris removal operations are underway. Exclusion zones will be established surrounding the current work area to ensure safety of the public.

Payment and Insurance

All initial costs will be paid by state and federal agencies. However, if property owners have homeowners’ insurance covering debris removal, owners must inform local officials by indicating that coverage on their ROE. Homeowners may be required to remit that portion of their insurance proceeds specifically reserved for debris.
It depends on the policy that you have. There are generally two types of debris removal coverages in a homeowner’s insurance policy:
  • Specified Amount Specified Amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy contains a separate, debris-specific clause, the local government will only collect the specified amount designated in the debris removal clause. These clauses are typically capped at a percentage of the coverage amounts listed in the policy (for example, 5 percent of the value of a primary structure, other structure, and personal property). You will not owe the local government any additional money, even if the actual costs to remove the debris exceeded the amount designated in your insurance policy for debris removal.
  • No Specified Amount: If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, the local government will only collect insurance proceeds for debris removal after you have rebuilt your home. The local government will only collect any available insurance proceeds, if any, after the rebuild. If there are no remaining funds, the homeowner will not owe the local government any additional money for debris removal.
Yes. If you have a specified amount for debris removal in your insurance policy, you may use your insurance proceeds to remove fire related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program (e.g., swimming pools, patios, trees, etc...). The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire related debris.

If your homeowner’s insurance policy does not have a separate, debris-specific clause and instead includes the costs of debris removal in the total coverage, you may use these proceeds to pay for the removal of fire related debris that is ineligible for removal under the program. The local government will only collect remaining insurance proceeds, if any, after you have removed ineligible fire related debris

In either scenario, the property owner will be required to substantiate all expenditures.


Additional Debris Removal Questions


Yes. A demolition permit is required to remove any remaining standing structures from the site and to cap utility connections. For homeowners opting out of the government-assisted debris removal program, approval from Public Works for the debris removal work plan is required prior to issuing a demolition permit. The Los Angeles County Debris Removal Program Application and work plan is available at LA County Recovers.
Yes, provided that other agencies, such as the LA County Department of Regional Planning, approve the trailer and all proper permits are obtained for utility connections.

If the property uses a septic system for wastewater disposal, the appropriate Environmental Health agency must approve the condition of the existing septic system prior to connection of the trailer.
Changes in occupancy groups or use of existing structures must be reviewed and permitted by LA County Public Works Building and Safety and all applicable agencies prior to occupancy. The agencies most commonly involved in permitting for this type of use include: California Coastal Commission and LA County Departments of Regional Planning, Public Health and Fire. Applicable agencies are unique to each property.
There is no timeline on rebuilding. However, once issued, a building permit will expire in 360 days if no measurable progress is made on re-construction.
When determining square footage, LA County Public Works Building and Safety staff will rely on building permit records to determine what was permitted in the past. If there is a discrepancy between the permitted square footage and what existed on the property just prior to the fire, LA County Public Works Building and Safety will review LA County Assessor’s Office record information.
If the existing structure’s foundation is deemed by a design professional (licensed civil engineer, structural engineer, or architect) to have suffered minimal fire damage, the existing foundation may be utilized in newly proposed construction, as long as it meets current building code requirements. The design professional shall verify that all under-slab utility systems (such as drain, waste, vent, water, mechanical, electrical, etc.) are suitable for continued use. Electrical conduits may remain, but all under-slab electrical conductors must be replaced. Applicants who choose to demolish the slab/foundation system will need to provide a compaction report to address re-compaction of the lot after slab removal if soil was disturbed to a depth greater than 12 inches. A licensed geotechnical or civil engineer must prepare the compaction report.
LA County will make every effort to provide prompt review period of submitted building plans. This review period should average one week for each submittal. In addition, the rechecks will be done over the counter by appointment.


School District approval will be required prior to rebuilding your home. If your proposed new construction exceeds the existing permitted square footage, school fees may be applicable. To confirm, please contact your applicable school district. You may use the Service Locator to determine the school district.

Illegal And Nonconforming Structures/Uses

Setbacks/Lot Lines/Easements

Swimming Pools

Septic System

Brush Clearing Requirements

Flooding & Debris Flows