Marshall fire cleanup expected to cost $52.6 million under contract awarded this week

The company hired to remove ash and other debris from the sites of homes burned by the Marshall fire says it can do the job for $52.6 million, though Boulder County officials warn the price tag could fluctuate due to the nature of wildfire recovery work.

Boulder County’s commissioners on Thursday in a 3-0 vote hired DRC Emergency Services to clear the ruins of the hundreds of homes destroyed in the Dec. 30 wildfire.

County officials initially did not disclose the dollar amount of the contract awarded to DRC. But they did so in a news release late Friday afternoon, noting that DRC offered the lowest bid. The firm will pay the county on a per-parcel basis.

Bids from the 11 companies competing for the contract ranged from $52,641,495 to $199,020,527, the news release said. The next lowest bid behind DRC was for $55.5 millIon.

However, the amount Boulder County eventually pays could change, based on a number of factors, including how many local residents choose to participate in the public cleanup project. So far, 900 property owners have submitted applications, the news release said. The deadline to enroll is Monday.

The cost of the project also could change if most houses need their foundations dug out and refilled with dirt, and if the amount of hazardous waste at the burn sites is greater than expected.

Debris removal on private properties is expected to begin March 1 and should be completed by July 1, weather-permitting.

Late Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency notified Boulder County that it would cover much of the cleanup costs. Typically, FEMA reimburses a county 75% of the costs while state and local governments pick up the remaining 25% of a disaster cleanup bill. However, Boulder County continues negotiating with FEMA to seek reimbursement for certain aspects of the cleanup such as digging up the foundations of burned houses.

The work will involve hauling away the ash and debris on residents’ properties, including toxic waste such as asbestos, to the appropriate landfills. Several inches of topsoil at most residences will need to be removed because of contamination, and the company will be required to cut down any trees damaged in the fire. The contract also requires DRC to recycle metals and concrete when possible.

The Marshall fire killed two people and destroyed 1,084 homes worth a combined half-billion dollars in Louisville, Superior and parts of unincorporated Boulder County. The county is leading the debris cleanup for all three local governments, and representatives from Louisville and Superior have been involved in selecting the company.

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