Cal Fire officials have finished initial inspections of structures and now crews from the Monterey County Bureau of Environmental Health and building inspectors from the county Housing and Community Development Department, alongside county public works and PG&E officials, are working simultaneously to assess safety of buildings and neighborhoods affected by the flood.
“Building Services and Environmental Health [officials] are simultaneously assessing the structural integrity and safety of the dwellings before people return home,” Kelsey Scanlon of the county Department of Emergency Management said during a news briefing on Monday, March 20.
Environmental health and building inspectors will determine if homes are safe to inhabit; their work comes after Cal Fire's initial step of determining whether structural integrity remains. Environmental Health inspectors will use a three-tiered, color-coded system: red (unsafe to enter), yellow (restricted access meaning you may begin clean-up) and green (safely habitable).
Crews won’t be looking at pre-existing building code violations or whether unauthorized work was done, just safety in connection to the impacts of flooding. “Our inspectors are not looking for building or zoning violations. They are simply looking for, are these structures safe to reenter,” said Craig Spencer, of the Department of Housing and Community Development. “There's no documentation of permits or zoning violations or anything of that nature,” he added.
Monterey County Administrative Officer Sonia De La Rosa said that even after inspections, much work for residents remains. “There'll be challenges for folks who have small children, because there's quite a bit of cleaning that has to be done,” she said.
Beyond the inspections building by building, county public works officials are almost done with cleaning streets, removing debris and filling potholes on the streets. They also cleaned sewer lines and manholes. Crews found a sewage failure and public works is working with a contractor on a temporary fix. Sewage and water are currently offline in Pajaro. Meanwhile, PG&E is restoring lines and looking for gas leaks.
Currently, Pajaro doesn’t sewage or water service and the county is considering providing sanitary stations to offer portable toilets and showers during the repopulation process, Spencer said.
Cal Fire's initial inspection cleared the way for subsequent inspectors to begin their work. Cal Fire inspected 858 structures, determining 406 were affected by the flood. Three—all residential, in the southwest area by the railroad tracks—were deemed destroyed. (View the map in progress here.)
To accelerate the process, Cal Fire had three crews working on inspections in Pajaro. “If it was just one team, and we had to go street by street to check and do the damage inspections, we'd have been here even longer,” says George Nunez, assistant chief of with Cal Fire's Monterey-San Benito unit.
Cal Fire inspectors assessed and considered each property as whole, even if they have several units, Scanlon said.
County officials will host a town hall meeting for Pajaro evacuees on Tuesday, March 20 at 6:30pm in the Resource Center at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. They will provide information on the next steps for the reentry process. The meeting will be available Facebook and YouTube.
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