by David Goldstein, Ventura County Public Works Agency, IWMD
Residents eager to return to a normal life following the fires may be tempted to begin cleanup immediately. Instead, additional preparation can save money and reduce risks.
In declaring a local health emergency the Ventura County Board of Supervisors enabled state agencies to launch a program providing free testing of disaster debris and free property clean-up if homes were completely destroyed by the Thomas Fire. Even if your home was not built with asbestos or originally painted with lead-based paint, substances from a wide variety of other building materials may make your ash a hazardous substance.
Consequently, countywide, fire debris can be legally removed only after an inspection by state designated personnel and, most likely, a County approved debris clean-up plan. Details of this program are still being developed and will be posted at venturacountyrecovers.org. Information is also available at 981-5101.
In addition to the many homes lost in recent fires, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat were also lost.
Fortunate people have insurance policies and public agencies to help with rebuilding, but it will take years before vegetation grows back to sustain eco-systems. The web of life on wild lands, from plants and insects, to birds and bobcats, will strain to cope with new circumstances.
One way people can help is to switch away from toxic substances and to mechanical and exclusion methods of rodent control. Following a fire, fleeing mice and rats tend to infest new areas. If homeowners near burn areas react to rodent problems by using poison, they risk posing new dangers to wildlife. Anti-coagulants kill mice and rats through internal bleeding, but poisoned pests take a long time to die, and in the meantime, they often become food for wildlife ranging from mountain lions to birds of prey, potentially spreading the poison up the food chain.
Methods of pest control designed to avoid infestations in the first place are categorized as “exclusion” methods, which include sealing off potential home entry points with wire mesh. Trim trees overhanging your roof and avoid dense growth capable of sheltering rats. Keep pet food secured and clean up pet dropping promptly.
Mechanical methods of pest control range from simple, classic snap traps to newer traps using electric shocks to kill pests. Some people mistake plastic bait traps for a mechanical trap, but generally, the large, plastic boxes with holes for rodents to crawl into are bait stations. The rodents do not die inside. Instead, they leave after consuming poison, potentially becoming prey for animals not targeted for poison.
If your mechanical traps are not catching rodents, rather than switching to poison, consider optimizing the traps. Set traps in pairs along a wall with the trip pads pointing in opposite directions, and use a proven effective bait, such as peanut butter. Also, since mice nibbles do not always trigger traps meant for rats, use both sized traps if you are not sure which type of infestation is in your home.