[OK, take note – this official Butte County statement now leads me to add a ‘Paradise Fire’ tab to the category listings on the right margin of the page. This evolving story deserves continued and ongoing review.]
Today, Butte County health officials are establishing a the legal predicate to stop residents of Paradise, CA , and surrounding region, from returning to live on their property following the devastating “Camp Fire” wildfire. The framework surrounds a regional “health advisory”; however, the objective appears to be blocking anyone from returning to live on their property for an undetermined period of time.
This type of big-government intervention is concerning for a myriad of reasons and could likely spur even more people to begin questioning motives:
Butte County – Dr. Andy Miller, Butte County Health Officer, has issued a hazard advisory strongly suggesting no habitation of destroyed property until property is declared clear of hazardous waste and structural ash and debris by Butte County Environmental Health.
There is evidence from recent fires in California that homes and property destroyed by fire contain high and concerning levels of heavy metals, lead, mercury, dioxin, arsenic, and other carcinogens. Some property may have the presence of radio-active materials. Exposure to hazardous substances may lead to acute and chronic health effects, and may cause long-term public health and environmental impacts.
As areas affected by the fire with destroyed homes and property are opened to residents, residents will have limited access to visit property to collect recognizable belongings and mementoes that may have survived the fire. Residents should review the Health and Safety Precaution for Re-entry packet, which will be distributed at controlled re-entry checkpoints.
The County is working with State and Federal partners who will assess each property for hazardous waste and remove those materials from each property. This process will take time.
There is no estimate as to how long it will take to assess and remove hazardous materials from each property at this time. After the property has been cleared of hazardous waste, the property owner can sign-up for a State debris removal program at no cost to the property owner. (read more)
Understanding and appreciating the sensitivity because there are likely human remains in the burned-out rubble from almost 900 missing persons, and a death toll increasing daily (currently 81), this declaration by county health officials is remarkable in scale/scope.
Well over 12,600 single family homes were destroyed and hundreds more multi-unit dwellings. That equates to tens-of-thousands of people over a significant area who are essentially being stopped from going home to begin the process of recovery.
From a resident’s perspective this health declaration is troubling on many levels. Can the local government stop you from parking a camper on your own property while you rebuild? Under what statute or set of regulations would the state or local county government be able to limit habitation on private property? Is this a new standard being established?
Additionally, this semi-legal assertion appears to be establishing a precedent and could likely fuel significant numbers of people who are starting to question if there are motives and intents beyond (or before) the crisis at hand.
We’ll keep watching, and praying.