Debris Removal Reimbursement and the right to refuse due to overexcavation mitigation Holly Austin asked 9 months ago
Debris Removal Reimbursement and the right to refuse due to overexcavation mitigation


It has been 5 years since the total loss of my home in the 2018 Camp Fire and I’ve just recently received a bill from Cal Recycle’s Tetra Tech informing me that I owe over $11,000 in reimbursement for debris removal.

Can Cal Recycle (or any other entity) put a lien against my property if I dispute the bill (whole or partial) and refuse to pay it?

I was unable to begin rebuilding until I filled in a swimming pool-sized hole left in the footprint of my burned home by the OES fire debris removal crew. I submitted a claim to the local OES office for over-excavation and provided a photo of my 6ft. tall partner standing in the hole. They informed me it could be 3 months or even more before they would be able to get an inspector to physically come to the property. Having already waited in line for many months for debris removal, and not knowing how far my ALE fund would stretch into the future, I wanted to get the building process started. Dirt prices at the time were astronomically inflated, as were the trucking costs. I also had to pay my contractor the added expense for labor and equipment it took to make my lot build-ready (filling the hole, compacting, grading,etc.). I received a letter from OES some six months after starting my rebuild, stating that an inspection was recently done, but the inspector was not able to assess my claim of damage as it had already been mitigated, therefore denied.

I also have a problem with some of the items listed on the invoice of the Cal Recycle bill. During the debris removal, the person in charge told me that our soil tests indicated no contamination- yet there are multiple charges for contaminated soil removal, transport, and disposal. I asked them not to remove our still intact concrete slabs from the detached garage and the two small tool sheds that also were burned down, and was told they would leave them. They removed the slabs the next morning before I arrived, explaining it was not possible to keep them after all. I personally know a truck driver who was one of the many hired by the program to haul fire debris. He has informed me that drivers were paid by tonnage-the more they hauled the more they were paid. I don’t feel I should have to pay to have my property excavated (essentially stolen), pay to have it hauled away, pay for all the various costs related to contaminated soil when I had none, and then pay for replacement soil, pay to have it hauled and pay for the labor and equipment to restore my property. It has been years since I spent the insurance funds allocated to me for fire debris removal, money I had to spend entirely on the rebuilding process which included getting my lot to a buildable condition first. I continued to pay my mortgage throughout the whole rebuilding process and still continue doing so today. I am retired with a fixed pension from my long career as a teacher. I have the same mortgage, but my house is not 60 years old anymore. I went through a lot to get this far, and tried to make every effort to learn about navigating through recovery-I used your website A LOT, and am ever grateful for it. Since receiving this demand for reimbursement, my sense of stability has been rocked once more. Can they put a lien against my home if I refuse to pay this ?

1 Answers
Debris Removal Reimbursement and the right to refuse due to over-excavation mitigation United Policyholders Staff answered 6 months ago

Dear, Holly:

We apologize for the delay in responding to you. According to the County’s website on the Debris Removal program (, once the final bills are received for each property, TetraTech will mail each homeowner with the bill for the amount of their allowable insurance proceeds. If you have spent funds from that coverage on additional debris removal (such as those you outlined spending to fill the hole), you should be able to provide that documentation to TetraTech so they can adjust your bill. Regarding disputing charges, you should contact the county for the process. Regarding a lien, you would need to contact the county and/or TetraTech for guidance.

We hope this helps,

Team UP