SOLANO COUNTY (CBS13) — Clean up is moving fast in Solano County after the LNU Lightning Complex fires burned more than 40,000 acres in the area.

The flames may be gone, but hidden dangers still remain in the damage left behind.

Hazmat crews are inspecting hundreds of homes for toxic chemicals. The key to their operation is getting in fast. Sometimes brush is still smoldering when these crews arrive.

“They’re looking to remove things such as fuels paints propane tanks of certain size chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides,” said Terry Schmidtbauer, Interim Director Resource Management with Solano County.

Schmidtbauer is overseeing this project for the county. He said there are about 370 structures burned and each one will need to be examined for chemicals.

Protected by hazmat suits, workers carefully removed the remains of a burnt solar panel at home Friday afternoon near Pleasant Valley Road.

“You don’t want any of these things spilling or leeching into the ground and getting into groundwater,” Schmidtbaur said.

Their clean up efforts will enable the homeowners who lost everything to get on their property and search for what survived.

California set records this year for acres burned and the sheer size of these wildfires, prompting a strong warning from Governor Gavin Newsom as he toured damage further north.

“We are in the midst of a climate emergency. We’re in the midst of a climate crisis. We’re experiencing weather conditions like we’ve never experienced in our lifetime,” Newsom said, while touring North Complex Fire damage.

Solano County started their own clean up ahead of the state Office of Emergency Services. After toxic waste is removed, crews can start clearing ash and debris but this process will take longer and requires funding.

After hazmat crews bag all the waste, it’s taken to a landfill. There are only a few landfills in the state that can accept toxic waste.

If you are a Solano County fire victim in need of assistance, you can stop by the Local Assitance Center at 675 Texas St. from Friday, Sept. 11-15. From then on, you can call and make an appointment 707-784-1575.


By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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