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There's Now A Clear Path Forward For Debris Removal, Lot Clearing After Marshall Fire

(CBS4) - Marshall Fire survivors heard an outline Tuesday night on how the personal property debris removal program backed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work.

"A lot of people have been waiting for this," said Boulder county director of public works Jeff Maxwell.

What wasn't stated was when.

"The short answer is we don't have a hard, fast date for yellow equipment because we have a lot of other work to do in preparation for that day. And as soon as we know that date we will make that announcement," added Maxwell.

Friday the neighborhoods where cleanup with start will be announced. Five crews will begin the clearing work after site inspections are set, said Louisville mayor Ashley Stolzmann. After that, about 10 crews a week will be added until there are over 30 working at the same time. The three government entities, the county, Louisville and Superior have been told it would take about four days to clear the average homesite.

It came as a judge dismissed a lawsuit over the awarding of the debris clearing contract to DRC Emergency Services by a group formed by talk show host and former FEMA director Michael Brown. District Court Judge Stephen E. Howard ruled that Brown had no standing to file since he could not be harmed.

"It is undisputed that plaintiff is not a resident or citizen of Boulder County. The complaint lists plaintiff's address as being in Centennial, Colorado, and there was nothing submitted to suggest plaintiff, or any individual affiliated with plaintiff, had any particular connection to Boulder County.

Stolzmann was glad to hear it.

"So that's fantastic news and helps us move ahead even faster."

Getting the personal property debris removal program going has been a challenge. At first FEMA agreed to pay some of the cost that remained after insurance coverage, but it was unclear what FEMA would cover. It took 2 months to establish that it would also cover foundation removal. Most foundations lost their integrity in the high temperatures of the fire because concrete contains moisture that likely boiled.

Over time, FEMA upped its backing to 90% of costs after insurance. The state says it will pick up half the remaining costs, leaving communities on the hook for less than was originally feared. The timeline for completion by July still remains.

The company contracted, DRC Environmental Services, believes the average time of completion for a typical home site is four days.

"I think we're on track to have it done in four months. That's what we've been looking at for the whole process. There will absolutely be some done sooner," said Stolzmann.

She said the city has contracted a firm to help with the permitting process as it expects many people will come in seeking building permits at once. The city has already been through a recent year with heavy hail damage when roofs had to be permitted for replacement.

"We learned a lot from that prior experience and we're really trying to make sure we have enough staff to cover the task," said Stolzmann.

Several properties have been sold already by people who lost homes to the Marshall Fire. But Louisville is hoping to bring back the housing it lost.

"We want as many people back as possibly can come back. Everybody who wants to move back, we want them back right."

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