Kern County Public Health clears toxic waste from homes affected by Erskine Fire

Teams work to clear 285 homes
Posted at 1:58 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 01:02:39-04

Kern County Public Health teams removed toxic waste from blocks of burned homes in South Lake Thursday, two weeks after the deadly Erskine Fire raged through.

They looked for batteries, computers, asbestos, propane tanks, and other toxic chemicals in the rubble, then bagged it up for disposal. The teams were in full body polyethylene suits, gloves and masks, taking every precaution.

"[We're] find[ing] all the hazardous materials that are basically an immediate threat to people's health," Senior Environmental Scientist Michael Pixton said.

The team has 285 homes to dig through. Once their sweep is complete, the state can bring in crews to start removing the damage.

"Once that has been completed by the state agencies, I think the residents will have a better timeline of when they can start to rebuild," Waste Management Technician Gabe Rubio said.

These services are being provided completely free under the emergency declaration, which Pixton said is the only way homeowners who didn't have insurance can get the job done.

23ABC spoke with a homeowner who was digging through what was left of her home, which hadn't been cleared by Kern County Public Health, and she said she did not want anyone on the property.

Pixton said if a homeowner does not want them on the property they will not enter, saying it is their choice.