BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Boulder County residents who opted into a county-led debris removal program now have access to a list detailing the order of street cleanups in the wake of the December 2021 Marshall Fire.
The list, published just before noon on Friday, details the order of operations for removing the damaged debris across Boulder County, Louisville and Superior — the communities hit by the 6,026-acre Marshall Fire that quickly spread through the area on Dec. 30, 2021 due to dry conditions and hurricane-force winds. It destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
The list is currently available here under the "View the current list of runways and order of operations" link.
Boulder County said it will create an online map to track progress, but this is not yet available. The entire project is estimated to take four months to complete, depending on weather. Click here for specific FAQs on the debris removal process.
According to the county, the work will start in mid-April in the following neighborhoods: Eldorado in Louisville, Sagamore and Original Town in Superior, and Marshall in unincorporated Boulder County, where some of the smaller homes and properties sat.
In the next few weeks, residents who opted-in to the program will receive an email to verify the right-of-entry forms and obtain final permissions. In these conversations, residents can explain what they would like removed, such as driveways, patios, landscaping and more.
Residents will be notified 24 to 48 hours ahead of time for their cleanup and if they want, they can request a site visit so they can learn about the plan for their specific site. They can also watch the work as it's done, but will need to stay a safe distance away, the county said.
The debris removal process will involve the following steps: Pre-wet the site, pull metals out of ash and debris for recycling, remove vehicles, remove ash and debris, and remove concrete, starting with the basement walls. Then, the site will be inspected by a monitoring contractor and graded, and soil samples will be taken to be sure there is no further contamination. After this, either county, town or city inspectors will conduct a final verification walk-through depending on whether the property is in Louisville, Superior or Boulder County. If the site passes the final inspection, a safety fence could be installed if one is needed, according to officials.
Boulder County and cleanup company officials said they believe each property will take about four days to clean up depending on how much ash there is on each property and the footprint.
Each jurisdiction has been divided into a total of 48 "runways," with each runway encompassing a certain list of streets, according to the county. One cleanup crew will be assigned to each runway and will continue working there until all included addresses in that runway are cleared out.
In total, 30 crews have been assigned to the project. Of those, 15 will work in Superior, nine will work in Louisville and six will work in Boulder County.
“They didn't want to just target Louisville first, and then Superior second, and then Boulder County. They wanted to look at the entire area," said Mayor Pro Tem Mark Lacis. “There's naturally going to be some frustration with some people who, you know, may appear lower on the list than the people who are higher up on the list.”
The county said this schedule for debris cleanup was developed with "careful analysis" of environmental hazards, environmental justice using the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening and Map, and "efficiencies of removal," according to the county. Jana Petersen, the county administrator for Boulder County, said meeting the environmental hazard and justice requirements would be necessary for reimbursement from FEMA.
Residents of approximately 200 of the homes burned decided to choose a private debris removal process, but can feel the frustration of their neighbors who have had to wait so long to see progress.
“I knew it was going to take way too long, and hired a private contractor. Because I want to get rebuilt before my insurance money runs out," said Ross Morgan, who lives in Original Town in Superior. "I wish I could do that for all of my neighbors.”
As of Friday, 791 property owners had opted into the program, which contracted DRC Emergency Services, LLC for the job, Petersen said. The full program is expected to cost around $60 million, according to the county.
Any residents who have not yet opted into this program can still participate, but need to inform Boulder County before clean-up work is finalized for the runway that includes their street. At this point, the county said opting-in does not guarantee inclusion into the program due to a lengthy list of steps that must be completed ahead of time. Residents who do not have a debris removal plan can email email@example.com with questions.
Conversely, residents who previously opted-in can also opt-out but must do so as soon as possible by emailing ROE@bouldercounty.org.
Any property owner who started structural, ash and soil clean-up on their own is ineligible for the program, according to the county. Many residents have already started this process after becoming frustrated with the lack of progress by the county.
“It’s been a nightmare, trying to figure out how to make forward progress,” one resident, who ended up hiring a private company to clear his land, told Denver7. “Being in the limbo we’ve been in since the flames came through here on the 30th of December has been excruciating.”
Neal Shah, a town of Superior trustee, said on behalf of the town Wednesday that officials were happy to finally be moving forward with the debris removal process after contracts were finalized and a lawsuit filed earlier this month was dismissed on Tuesday.
The cause of the Marshall Fire remains under investigation. The Boulder County Sheriff's Office said the investigation will likely take several more months.
Denver7's Colette Bordelon contributed to this report.