Rubble from massive Sonoma County wildfires is prepped for road, home construction
As out-of-control wildfires smudge skies across the Golden State with smoke once again, some local businesses are still working hard on recycling materials from areas of the North Bay that burned last fall.
In June, about nine months after the fires burned in the North Bay, Pruitt Industrial Park in Windsor in Sonoma County got its last official load of fire debris from an Army Corps of Engineers program, said Kristyn Byrne, the 30-acre park’s property manager.
For months, one of the park’s 40 tenants, Pacific Recycling Solutions, has been turning burned debris into useable building materials.
Owned by Nevada-based C&S Waste Solutions, the company, which also has operations in Lake County – was able to mobilize quickly in Sonoma County said Byrne, who is also a spokesperson for Pacific Recycling Solutions.
Starting in November, bulky concrete debris from the estimated 5,300 Sonoma County homes destroyed in last year’s fires was hauled to the Pruitt Industrial Park by trucking contractors hired by the Army Corps of Engineers, Byrne said. Stony Point Rock Quarry in Cotati was among other companies turning rubble into recyclable material.
Just to get the material to the Windsor recycling site was an unimaginably vast logistical effort, supervised by companies like Florida-based disaster relief specialist AshBritt Environmental. Its special Santa Rosa headquarters operated from October until June, hiring and training local contractors and truckers to help haul material, the volume of which weighed twice as much as the Golden Gate Bridge.
“It’s a very specialized kind of work. How do you manage two Golden Gate Bridges’ worth of debris?” said Gerardo Castillo, a spokesman for AshBritt.
AshBritt’s part of the hauling operation alone – 775,000 tons taken to recyclers like Pruitt Industrial Park or to landfill – required up to 550 trucks per day and employed more than 1,000 people, according to the Florida company.
CRUSHED CONCRETE FOR CRUSHED COMMUNITIES
“Large pieces of concrete recovered from the fires are broken up with a hydraulic breaker into smaller pieces. Those pieces are fed into a mobile rock crusher,” Byrne explained. “A final round of grinding produces ¾-inch recycled base rock that meets CalTrans specifications for reuse.”
Metal such as rebar is also separated out during the breaking up process. It too can be completely recycled.
While base rock can’t be used in building new house structures, it can be used under new sidewalks, roads, driveways and in the concrete pads underneath homes.
And doing the work locally helps in the rebuilding efforts – “sourcing new materials to rebuild is a major concern for the construction companies working to rebuild at a fast pace,” according to Byrne.
Material being fed into the crushers comes from home foundations, patios and driveways, and ultimately it will end up supporting new structures of those types as “CalTrans Spec 26 Class II base rock.”
The California Department of Transportation uses similar recycling procedures in breaking up old roads and highways for reuse as aggregate material underneath new asphalt.
Pacific Recycling set up its emergency response fire debris site at Pruitt Industrial Park just two weeks after the fires were contained, which required a massive logistical effort from the company. Scales for weighing trucks had to be built and housed in structures, while heavy equipment had to be bought or rented to handle the loads of material expected to arrive. Employees had to be hired to do the extra work, too.