Bay City News

Cleanup, Healing Just Beginning For Kincade Fire Victims

Sonoma County is working to enter into an emergency contract to remove household hazardous waste from properties that were impacted by the Kincade Fire, public health officials said Wednesday, and the healing process for victims also is just beginning.

As tens of thousands of residents return home, they are struggling to find a sense of normalcy. Some are returning to sleep in their own beds while others are finding their lives turned upside down.

The fear and trauma facing kids and parents in the wildfire zones is real and becoming stronger every year, according to a clinical psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress. Dr. Adrienne Heinz helped develop an app called Sonoma Rises that’s packed with tools to help fire survivors cope with the trauma of evacuations, devastation and in previous fires the loss of loved ones.

"I'm seeing more despair about is this our new normal, this is the reality in which we live, where our homes and our communities are threatened," Heinz said.

The Kincade Fire began Oct. 23, causing the evacuation of 185,000 county residents and burning nearly 78,000 acres. It destroyed 374 structures, including 174 residences, and damaged 60 structures, including 34 residences in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties.

Meanwhile, a contractor has not yet been selected for hazardous waste removal, but the cleanup is scheduled to begin Tuesday and take up to three weeks, Department of Health Services spokesman Rohish Lal said.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip on Friday ordered community members not to enter the burn footprint without protective equipment and to not begin cleanup activities without authorization by the Department of Health Services Public Health Division.

Hazardous debris after a wildfire can expose residents to toxic materials, and improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts, the Department of Health Services said.

The selected contractor will inspect the properties and remove any household hazardous waste that is a threat to humans' and animals' health and the environment. Hazardous materials include batteries, asbestos siding and paints. All commercial, residential and out-buildings impacted by the fire will be inspected regardless of size.

Sonoma County also is developing a process for a private debris removal program. Additional information is expected by the end of this week.

More information is available at www.socoemergency.org/recover.

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