LAKE ARROWHEAD, CALIF.—Rather than leave the cleanup following last year’s wildfires to individual property owners, San Bernardino County, Calif., chose to coordinate the work on a regional basis under a model developed by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) following the 2007 fire in Lake Tahoe. Sukut Construction, Inc., began demolition and removal in late January of as many as 517 fire-ravaged homes in the Lake Arrowhead region under a $19.6 million contract awarded by the county. The impacted homes are located in four mountain neighborhoods. The coordinated model results in a quicker, safer, and more environmentally sound outcome.

Crews with hazmat training work to clean up debris left by devastating wildfires in San Bernardino County, Calif.


"Everybody on this job is hazmat trained, and committed to safety and the proper disposal of the fire debris," said Dave Grattan, president of Sukut’s environmental division. "Our priority is to keep the groundwater and lake free from contamination and residents safe from potentially toxic materials."
The Sukut team, with the support of local subcontractors, tackled tons of molten debris, car and appliance carcasses, and dangerously unstable chimneys. The difficulty of the Lake Arrowhead job is exacerbated by its location on steep hillsides that can only be reached by way of narrow roads and a lot of hairpin turns. As a result, the company estimates the time for each individual home site cleanup at two to three days.

Sukut moved crews and heavy equipment into the devastated neighborhoods in late December. It anticipated hauling 120 to 150 truckloads of debris per day to a landfill, after recyclables and hazardous waste have been separated. The job was expected to be complete in 40 to 60 working days, weather and recent heavy snowfall permitting.