One year after wildfires devastated Northern California’s wine country and destroyed thousands of homes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ first experience cleaning up after a wildfire has turned into an expensive bureaucratic mess. The state’s top emergency official suspects fraud played a role.
In October 2017, state and local officials lacked the resources to quickly clear still-smoldering toxic debris from 4,500 homes destroyed by a wildfire in and near Santa Rosa. So the Army was called in.
The Army was in charge of awarding $1.3 billion in cleanup contracts to three contractors, which hired dozens of smaller companies to haul away the debris and dispose of it in landfills. The hauling companies were paid by the ton. The more they hauled, the more they earned.
The first complaints started almost as soon as the first dump truck was loaded in November.