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State Agency Begins To Assess Damage In Grizzly Flats Left By Caldor Fire

GRIZZLY FLATS (CBS13) - The Caldor fire burned thousands of acres in El Dorado County, destroying everything in its path.

After weeks of an active firefight one state agency is finally beginning to assess the damage left behind.

"What you're walking through is somebody's entire life," said Ivan Rodriguez, Environmental Scientist with the Department of Toxic Substance, who says the Caldor fire burned more than just homes and cars.

"People's personal belongings heirlooms photographs. When we walk on these properties, we do it with the knowledge and understanding that this is somebodies' home," said Rodriguez.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is tasked with the Caldor fire cleanup. Their job is to find dangerous material burned by the wildfire and remove it.

For example, batteries, used oil, asbestos, and propane tanks.

"Those items do pose a risk of exposure to the property owners."

Says Rodriguez who explained to CBS13 what could happen to homeowners who return to their property before the waste is removed.

"If you inhale those asbestos fibers it can cause problems in your lungs. It can give you cancer. It can cause soil contamination, said Rodriguez.

Hazmat crews are asking for patience as they clean and clear each property one by one.

"They are essential steps in allowing for these property owners to move on...figure out what they're going to do with their properties," says Rodriguez.

CBS13 spoke to Grizzly Flats homeowner Walter Passmore who faced the decision to rebuild or leave, just one year ago.

"We lost our home in Santa Cruz for the CZU Lightning Complex. We know how it sift through the ashes to see if there's anything that survived," said Passmore, who's new to Grizzly Flats. He was allowed to return home and has good news for neighbors waiting to do the same.

"We've seen so many crews and agencies coming up to really accelerate the recovery process," he said.

CBS13 asked the Department of Toxic Substance if they could give a more specific timeline for how long their assessments might take and when they'd be able to allow property owners to move forward. They say it could be weeks.

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