Visalia

Tulare Co. gives residents extra time to request SQF Complex Fire debris removal

Tulare County residents who were affected by last year’s devastating SQF Complex Fire have been granted extra time to apply for a debris removal program. 

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a deadline extension on Tuesday for the Alternate Fire Debris Removal Program applications.

Residents now have until July 31 to apply for the program, which would likely save them tens of thousands of dollars. 

Up until recently, residents had the option to apply for the free Consolidated Debris Removal Program, which was paid for by the state. The deadline for that program has already passed. 

The deadline for the county’s alternate program initially expired at the end of last year, but with over 30 properties that still have fire debris, the county extended the program in the hopes of decreasing the number of properties that would be subject to abatement. 

Residents are required to remove all fire-related debris from their property to protect public health and safety, as directed by the board last year as part of its SQF Complex Fire recovery measures. 

Michael Washam, Associate Director of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency, said abatement could cost the county $100,000 per parcel. If property owners do not take advantage of the alternate program in the next month and a half, the county is looking at a $3 million bill. 

“To bring up the point that it’s about $100,000 if the county has to do it, and then to have to put that sort of a lien on the property would just add insult to injury, obviously, after all the devastation,” said Supervisor Dennis Townsend. 

For people who took advantage of the state’s offer, that program will complete all debris removal by June 20. The state will then conduct soil testing and hazard tree removal before wrapping up the whole program by Aug. 1. 

While the alternate program will come at a cost to property owners, insurance coverage could cover the expenses. 

Residents who still need to have fire debris removed from their property can call the SQF Complex Hotline at 559-802-9790 during business hours to apply for the alternate program.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.