Creek Fire: Contractors hoping to clean up properties before extreme weather

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Crews with Pius Construction INC. are cleaning up the charred remnants of a Fresno County home torched by the Creek Fire.

Heaps of scrap metal and toxic debris are all that's left of this beloved house.

"We are separating the metals from the ash," said Bret Pius owner of Pius Construction INC. "We are looking for anything that could possibly be a contaminant; propane bottles, paint cans."

While FEMA and other agencies are providing free cleanup for victims, private contractors like Pius are covered by homeowner's insurance.

He said they're racing against the clock to clean up properties before the first rain and snow of the season.

"It is desperately urgent that we get these things picked up so the contaminants don't flow down into our watershed and into the streams and rivers and eventually down into the valley," she said.

But he and other contractors are running into problems.

Before they can start the cleanup, they need to fill out a multi-page application on Fresno County's website.

Pius said the approval process takes too long and the county's webpage has been down since Friday.

"This application needs to be streamlined. We need to be able to identify homes that were built in 1995 compared to a home in 1964 that probably has asbestos," he said.

We reached out to Fresno County officials who said they were unaware of the problem and should have the issue fixed before Tuesday.

County officials say they're doing what they can to make the process easier, but their hands are tied based on state and federal involvement.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson who represents the area says work needs to start now.

"We are right on the cusp on a set of serious decisions that have to be made by these bureaucracies," he said.

Patterson is urging people not to clean up their own properties since they could be disqualified for public assistance.

Meanwhile, county officials are asking contractors to call the environmental health department to see how the application process can be sped up.

Brent said he is currently waiting on the go-ahead to clean up about 25 other properties.

He adds if he can't get in there before it rains or snows, then independent contractors like himself might not be able to clean up until May of 2021.
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