Q: What are my options for debris removal?
A: There are two options for debris removal:
1) Have fire debris removed by state contractors through the Consolidated Fire Debris Removal Program administered by the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and CalRecycle (State Program). The deadline for submitting an application for participation in the program was January 22, 2018.
2) Hire your own contractor to remove debris. An application and workplan for the Local Fire Debris Removal Program (Local program) must be submitted to and approved by the Environmental Health Division.
More detailed information about the programs can be found here.
Clean-up of properties under the Local Program must be completed no later than June 1, 2018. Properties that have fire ash and debris from structures damaged or destroyed in the Thomas Fire that have not submitted an application to the State Program or Local Program after the deadline will be declared a public nuisance and health hazard and subject to summary abatement by the County of Ventura.
Q: Do I need a permit from the County to remove my fire debris?
A: If you signed up to have fire debris removed from your property by state contractors (CalRecycle) through the Consolidated Debris Removal Program, then no, you do not need to obtain a permit from the County. If you “opted-out” of the state debris removal program and have instead decided to hire a contractor yourself to remove the debris from your property, then yes, you need to obtain a demolition permit from the County’s Building and Safety office. An approved work plan and application from the County of Ventura Environmental Health Division is required prior to the issuance of a demolition permit.
Q: What type of contractor can help me with my debris removal?
A: Before the debris can be removed, it must be tested for hazardous substances, including asbestos. If asbestos is present, then the contractor must also hold a C-22 contractor license for the removal of the asbestos. If other hazardous materials are present, then the contractor must have a Hazardous Substance Removal Certification issued by the State, for the removal of these substances. For more information about the required testing for hazardous substances on a site please visit Debris Removal at Ventura County Recovers. Debris removal does not need to be done by a licensed contractor if it does not involve the removal of a foundation or the demolition of other portions of a fire-damaged building or structure, and if no asbestos or other hazardous substances are present in the debris.
Q: Can my contractor also demolish any standing remains of the fire-damaged structure?
A: If the debris removal includes the demolition of the foundation and/or the removal of any standing remains of the building, then the contractor must hold a C-21 contractor license for Building Demolition issued by the Contractors State Licensing Board.
Q: Where can I find the original plans used to build my original house?
A: The County of Ventura Building and Safety office may have the original plans archived and available for use and reference for houses and other buildings constructed after 1999. These plans are available for viewing by the public. However, State law prohibits the release of copies of these plans without the expressed authorization of the original designer. If your house was constructed after 1999 and you would like to inquire if these plans have been archived by the County, please submit a Records Search Request to the Building and Safety office by visiting our office or calling 805 654-2771 and speaking with Ms. Laura Macias or Ms. Marie Becerra.
Q: Can I use the original plans to rebuild my new house?
A: Yes, however these plans may be out of date with conformance with current Building Codes. Depending on the date when the plans were originally prepared and the Codes that were in effect at the time, it is likely that there will be a need for substantial updates and re-design to reflect current code requirements for a new house built today.
Q: If my plans were originally approved by the County, do I still need to have the plans updated to meet current Building Code standards?
A: Yes, new construction needs to comply with current Code requirements. The State of California updates the State Codes every three years to ensure these codes reflect the latest safety standards and energy conservations standards. New construction projects must meet these latest provisions, even if the construction project is a result of a fire or other natural disaster.
Q: Can I use the original slab and foundation for the newly constructed house?
A: No. Concrete slabs and foundations are generally severely damaged during intense fire and become inadequate for re-use. The repairs and code upgrades that are needed to be done for the concrete, the anchorage hardware, the plumbing pipes, and electrical conduit are usually substantial. These can be cost-prohibitive in many cases. It is almost always more economical, and desirable to build a new foundation with the new structure.
Q: Who can design my new house? Can I do it myself, or can my contractor do it?
A: Finding the right designer for your new house is an important decision that should be considered carefully. Your home should be designed by a professional architect who is experienced with designing houses. He/she can assist and guide you with coordination with others involved in the design of your house…the engineer, the contractor, and County officials. It is never recommended that the property owner design his/her own house. There are many complexities with today’s construction materials, methods, and building code requirements. Unless the property owner is an experienced designer, it is not recommended that the design be prepared by the property owner. Similarly, most contractors are not qualified or authorized to do engineering or architectural design for a project without the proper State license to practice architecture or engineering.
Q: Will I need a soils report for construction of the new house?
A: Yes. In most cases a soils report will be required in order to evaluate the soils conditions at the site and determine how to best design your foundation system for the new house. Typically, the soil is disturbed during the debris removal and demolition process and is not suitable for sustaining a new foundation system without proper compaction. The geotechnical engineer will ensure the soil is properly compacted and suitable for the new foundation. He/she will also give soils strength parameters needed by the structural engineer to design the new foundation.
Q: Will I be required to design a new onsite wastewater disposal system (septic system) when I rebuild?
No, unless your septic system was damaged and needs full replacement. However, a complete analysis and inspection of your septic system (Full Certification) is required for all properties that intend to use their existing septic system. The Environmental Health Division (EHD) will be reviewing setback distances to structures, water bodies, wells and propetry lines. A soils report may also be required as part of the certification review. Cesspools cannot be certified and must be properly abandoned; a new septic system design will be required for properties that have a cesspool.
There are limitations to building a home with a septic system. Rebuilding a larger home with more bedrooms or plumbing fixtures than the previous structure may require that a larger septic tank to be installed or additional leach lines or seepage pits may be necessary. The certification review will determine if the system is properly sized and meets current Building Code requirements. At the design phase, it is recommended that you contact the Environmental Health Division Liquid Waste program to consult with project manager or review information on our website.
EHD counter hours are Monday-Friday, 7:30 – 9:00am and 3:00 – 5:00pm.
Q: Will my existing water well be automatically approved as my water source when I rebuild?
No, a Certification of Water Quality approved by Ventura County Environmental Health will be required prior to issuance of a building permit for any new structures which require potable water. Please visit this web page for more information on the Certification of Water Quality process.
Your water well should be checked for damage. Visually check the water-supply system, including plumbing, for any damage, signs of leaks, or changes in operation. You can check for positive pressure loss by turning on a faucet or valve at the well head or water storage tank to see if water flows. The flow of water should be steady and uninterrupted. If you hear air escaping with water intermittently spurting out, that is an indication that your well and/or plumbing had a loss of pressure and may have been damaged.
Q: How do I obtain a Demolition permit for removing debris and demolishing any standing remains of my fire-damaged building?
A: You need to submit an application for a Demo permit at the B&S public counter. The permit will be issued to a properly-licensed contractor. The permit application must include a site map showing the location of the building(s) to be removed. Prior to obtaining the permit, the applicant must obtain clearance from the Environmental Health Department (EHD) and from the Integrated Waste Management District (verify). EHD will inform the applicant of his/her responsibilities for soils testing to ensure hazardous substances are properly identified, handled and disposed. IWMD will inform the applicant of the necessary tracking procedures for material recycling by the contractor. This permit is issued over the counter, but may take approximately one hour, including the time needed for obtaining the required clearances from EHD and IWMD.
Q: How do I obtain a building permit for temporary housing on my property?
A: You need to submit a Building Permit application to the Building and Safety Division office. The application needs to be accompanied by a site plan showing the location of the proposed Recreational Vehicle (RV) or other approved temporary housing arrangement and points of connection to utilities (i.e., water, electricity, and sewer). The site plan should also show the general location of the site and the location of the destroyed or damaged buildings in relation to the proposed temporary housing. If the temporary housing is proposed to be installed prior to the removal of the debris, then the County asks that you maintain a 100-foot separation from the temporary housing, and the debris location. Other pertinent information such as the description of the proposed temporary housing should be shown on the site plan for clarity. If the temporary housing will be a manufactured home or a conventionally-constructed building, then the site plan should be accompanied by the appropriate drawings describing the method of construction and anchorage of the building. Temporary housing must be approved by the Planning Division and Environmental Health Division prior to receiving a Building Permit from the Building and Safety Division. The Planning Division’s Temporary Housing After a Disaster application can be found here. The Building Permit is issued over-the-counter, but may take approximately one to two hours, including the time needed for Building and Safety staff’s review and for obtaining the required clearances from Planning and Environmental Health Divisions. For conventionally-constructed temporary housing, the time needed for obtaining the Building Permit will be greater, but will depend on the size and complexity of the proposed building.
Q: How do I obtain an electrical permit for a temporary power pole for my property?
A: You need to submit an electrical permit application for a temp power pole, with a site plan showing the approximate location where the utility company will place it. The Planning Dept ill need to review and approve the location of the pole and its intended purpose for the temporary power source, prior to receiving a permit from B&S. Permits for temp power poles are usually issued over the counter and can take about an hour, including review time by the Planning Department.
Q: What is needed for obtaining a building permit to rebuild my house?
A: The Building Permit application must be accompanied by a complete set of construction drawings that have been prepared by a design professional (architect or qualified building designer) and engineer. For a full listing of the individual drawings and pertinent documents that constitute a “complete set” of drawings, see this document. The project must be approved by the Planning Dep’t, EHD, IWMD, and the County Fire Department prior to receiving a building permit from B&S. Other Departments may also need to review your project and “clear it” for a building permit. For a complete list of applicable clearances needed for your project, see this document. Since reconstructed buildings are usually larger, more complicated, and permanent, they are more regulated and will take longer to receive a building permit. A typical permit for a reconstructed house will take several months to obtain.
Q: Does the County waive any fees for permits associated with reconstruction of fire-damaged/destroyed buildings?
A: Yes. The County waives a number of fees in order to assist the victims of the Thomas, Woolsey, and Hill fires. These fees are anticipated to be waived until December 31, 2024. It’s important to note that the fee waivers only provide financial relief to those property owners who experienced loss and would not apply to those who subsequently purchased a vacant lot to rebuild. Please see the listing of fees that have been exempted from fire reconstruction projects by the Board of Supervisors here. The County follows a fiscally responsible cost recovery policy and therefore cannot waive all of its permitting fees because these fees pay for the permitting and inspection services, which are not funded by tax revenue or other funding source.
Q: My home was destroyed in the fire, but the septic system is functioning. Will I be able to use my existing system when I rebuild?
Yes, you may be able to use your existing septic system with a newly built structure. However, it must be sized properly and meet current code requirements. A septic system certification is required by the Environmental Health Division (EHD):
- Proof that the septic system is in good working order (septic tank pumping report) and an accurate site plan is required with a septic system certification application. A geotechnical/soils report may also be required.
- If the previous structure and/or septic system was not code conforming, for example a cesspool was used for sewage disposal, the system or any components may need to be replaced or upgraded before EHD can certify your sewage disposal system. A permit to construct (repair permit) will be required by EHD.
- If you are planning to build a larger structure, add bedrooms or add plumbing fixtures, a larger septic tank or disposal area may be required to account for the additional waste water load.
Q: My septic system was damaged in the fire and is not usable. What permits will I need?
If the existing septic system, or any components, are damaged, the septic system must be properly abandoned, and a newly designed septic system must be installed. The new septic system is required to meet current building code standards.
Please visit this web page for information on septic system requirements, permits and certifications.
EHD staff are available during counter hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30 – 9:00a.m. and 3:30 – 5:00p.m.
Q: My private water well system and/or components (pump, electrical, piping, etc.) were damaged in the fire. What do I need to do to begin repairs?
Contact Ventura County Public Works Groundwater Resources to obtain well repair permits.
Contact Ventura County Building and Safety to obtain electrical and plumbing repair permits.
Q: Will my well water quality need to be certified for my house that was only partially damaged?
Fire damaged structures which were not completely destroyed do not need to obtain a Certification of Water Quality. However, disinfection of the water well and water system components is recommended following a disaster, well head or component repairs, maintenance or replacement of the pump, or if a power loss may have possibly caused loss of pressure. Also, it is strongly recommended the water be tested for the presence of bacteria before it is used for drinking or cooking.