Reclamation answers the call for wildfire cleanup
Written by: Fred Brown
Reclamation volunteer Amy Whittington monitors contract removal of debris materials from destroyed properties in Santa Rosa, California, during cleanup efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.After wildfires ravaged four northern California counties in early October 2017, it was clear it would take a lot of time and extra hands to help get the effected communities back on their feet. In response to the destruction of thousands of structures across four counties, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested the Bureau of Reclamation deploy staff for a debris removal quality assurance mission.
Reclamation employees from across the West volunteered to deploy to California to assist in the cleanup process. Currently, 31 volunteers have deployed in three waves to different counties, including Sonoma and Napa. Their mission includes assessing destroyed properties for debris removal and monitoring contract removal of debris materials from destroyed properties. Adding this much-needed man-power is crucial to the mission in northern California.
“Reclamation's participation is vital to USACE being able to complete the debris removal mission,” says Scott Swanson, Chief of Reclamation’s Program and Emergency Management Office. “With the number of USACE staff deployed to hurricane-impacted disaster areas, Reclamation personnel are paramount to the Corps' ability to carry out this mission. In some of the emergency field offices, Reclamation staff compose the majority of deployers supporting the debris removal mission.”
For one volunteer from Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region, seeing the devastation of the city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County was especially hard.
“It was pretty emotional,” says Amy Whittington. “This area is where my family lived for 13 years; where my son was born and raised. For me, I just wanted to come home and help.”
Though seeing the devastation to these communities was difficult, Amy is glad that, with the support of Reclamation, she has the opportunity to work with USACE and to give back to her former community.
“I know we are really busy here at Reclamation, but I encourage everyone that has the opportunity to deploy to go out and volunteer,” says Amy. “I’m thankful to help in the rebuilding process in Santa Rosa and to work the great people at USACE.”
Cleanup operations are on-going and another 23 Reclamation employees will join the effort in mid-January.
A Reclamation volunteer assesses the cleared sites in Santa Rosa, California, during cleanup efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The volunteers’ deployment is in response to wildfires that destroyed thousands of structures across 4 northern California counties and the removal of that debris from select properties.
Published on January 11, 2018