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Wildfire Recovery Will Stretch California's Toxic Cleanup Capacities

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

A firefighter mops up the area scorched by a wildfire Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The massive task to clean up toxic debris in the neighborhoods affected by this month's devastating wildfires is expected to be complete sometime early next year.

Federal and state agencies working on the project gave a progress report Thursday. Officials said once work begins on a property, it should be ready for new construction within about a month.

However, there will be some challenges along the way.

Sean Smith with the California Department of Emergency Services said there are currently not enough labs to handle the amount of testing needed.

"We are going to inundate the labs in California and all of our neighboring states with these tests," Smith said. "We know that they're going to have a huge ramp up. In the past, the most we've ever pushed through the labs in a three month period was about 2,000 properties. We know were going to ask these labs to triple that."

Phase one of the project is already underway in most counties, with the removal of items such as bulk asbestos, propane tanks and other fuel containers.

Debris removal is the second phase, and is expected to start within days.

This phase will be handled by Cal Recycle in Yuba, Butte, and Nevada Counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will handle the coastal region.

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