Sonoma County Residents Await EPA Clearance Before Wildfire Cleanup Can Begin

Hundreds of Sonoma County residents eager to start cleaning up their destroyed homes packed into a hot gymnasium Thursday night in Santa Rosa and got some of the information they've been waiting for.

For some, the waiting part will continue.

"I've been to the city, the county, FEMA, and nobody can give us an answer as to when we can start cleaning up," resident Ed Nessinger said.

First, crews with the Environmental Protection Agency must clear hazardous material such as propane canisters, batteries and chemicals from more than 5,000 properties.

That work begins Friday in Santa Rosa's Coffey Park neighborhood.

Once the EPA is done removing the dangerous items, debris can be cleared. The Army Corps of Engineers is ready to begin that process with site inspections next week.

Resident John Miller was disappointed his property won't be among the first cleared by the EPA.

"We could be out of a hotel and back in a house quickly," he said.

The coming rain is adding to the long list of concerns for property owners and officials. As frustration builds, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey asked for patience.

"It's not gonna get better for a long time," he said. "I keep telling people we can do it, but we have to do it together."

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