Public Works Thomas Fire Information

For Structures lost or damaged in the Thomas Fire, Public Works - Land  Development staff will expedite the review and processing of grading permits and encroachment permits for associated utility work such as water, sewer, gas and electrical connections for the reconstruction of homes.

Table of Contents

Reduced Fees for Thomas Fire Rebuilding
Thomas Fire Land Development Grading Permits
Thomas Fire Debris Removal
Your House Lot and the Thomas Fire Recovery
Sewer Line Capping
Erosion and Ash Control
Ventura County Recovers Website

Reduced Fees for Thomas Fire Rebuilding

On June 18, 2018, City Council renewed their commitment to helping those who lost their home in the Thomas Fire by not increasing fees for construction-related permits and services. If you owned your house at the time of the fire and are now seeking permits to rebuild your home, you are eligible for the reduced fees from the 2017-2018 fiscal year. 

To help staff apply the correct fees to your project, please plan to show staff your lot on the City Maps system where we can see the current owner’s name and the date of purchase from the Ventura County Assessor’s data. If the listed person is you and the date of purchase is prior to December 4, 2017, then we will apply the fee schedule from that year. Please reference the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 Fee Schedule.

If you have any questions, please call Chandra Chandrashaker at 805-654-7714 or email

Thomas Fire Rebuilds Land Development Grading Permits

A Grading Permit IS Required When:

  • Removal and recompaction of soil to a depth greater than five feet; 
  • New building footprint extends more than five feet from old footprint;
  • Property in the Ondulando area identified with settlement issues;
  • High-risk properties that are adjacent to slopes, have drainage concerns, or have lots that were originally placed on fill.

Grading Permit MAY Be Required When:

  • New areas of cut or fill proposed;
  • New retaining walls three feet or greater in height with surcharge.

Be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or additional information please download our Land Development Grand Permit Triggers form.

City Grading Permit Information

Streamlined Approach for Most

The City Engineer has streamlined the grading permit process by exempting approximately 75% of the Thomas Fire houses from the need for a separate set of plans and reviews for grading. Most of these are in lower-risk areas. For those sites that do require a separate grading permit and review by the Public Works Engineering Division, please plan to hire a civil engineer and coordinate with your geotechnical engineer to get a set of plans submitted to the Public Works Counter at City Hall Room 117 before you submit your house plans to the Building & Safety Division. The City will review your geotechnical report and your civil plans to ensure the minimum California Building Code requirements are met. If you have any questions or concerns, please call Mark Wilde, Senior Civil Engineer at (805) 722-2876 or email him at

Bad Dirt, Subsidence and the 1967 Lawsuit

The Ventura Hillsides can be a challenging place to build or rebuild. The Ondulando area was built between 1959 and 1961. The area was the subject of a lawsuit in 1967 related to faulty grading construction techniques. A common approach to hillside construction is to cut the hill tops and fill in the valleys however, this requires that the trees, bushes, grass and topsoil are removed from the valleys and that new good dirt is placed and compacted. This does not appear to have happened during the original grading of the Ondulando area. The City has what is called the “Crest Engineering Report” dated 1967 that is an extensive geotechnical investigation into the details of what happened, and it includes maps and parcel-by-parcel data. Many of the established geotechnical engineering firms in town have a copy of the Crest Engineering Report and provide a design that recognizes the known issues of settlement and slope stability. These issues are also found outside the Ondulando area and are shared by other areas within the Ventura Hillsides. Please have a discussion upfront with your chosen geotechnical engineer when signing a contract for services. If you are one of the lucky 75% or so of homes sites, you may find that a limited scope of services will suffice. However, if your house was located on a lot with undocumented fill or if your house was located close to the top of bottom of a hill, you may need to have a full scope of services with your geotechnical engineer to ensure you have an adequate number of deep borings to test the compaction of the deep fill or you may need have your geotechnical engineer make recommendations about the safety of a hill next to your house.

City Process

The City process follows the construction process. Ideally, you should obtain your grading review, approval and permit BEFORE you obtain your building permit. After all, your contractor will need to prepare the dirt on the lot and make sure it is compacted and ready for a foundation before your foundation is dug, steel placed, and concrete is poured. If you are like many people however, you may have chosen your architect first and got very far along the way with your house floor plan and kitchen design before even discussing the need for a structural engineer, a geotechnical engineer and possible a civil engineer. If this sounds like the situation you find yourself in, please call Brad Starr, City Engineer, at (805) 658-4778 or, to arrange a meeting with your geotechnical engineer and discuss ways to stay on schedule and still ensure you have a safely built house even though you may be located in a higher-risk area.

Thomas Fire Debris Removal - Homes that were a total loss only

The debris that remains from a structure that was destroyed in the Thomas fire may contain hazardous waste and materials that can threaten public health.  It is therefore very important that this debris be properly inspected and disposed.  To expedite recovery activities and ensure the safe removal of hazardous waste and fire debris, the county is coordinating with state and federal agencies to remove hazardous waste and fire debris from structures and properties damaged by the wildfire using the state Fire Debris Removal Program. There are two phases to this program:

  • Phase One: Household hazardous waste (HHW) removal - English | Español
  • Phone Two: Debris and ash removal

Phase One: Household Hazardous Waste Removal

During Phase One, teams from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and/or US EPA, along with Environmental Health Division or City staff, will inspect your property and remove any household hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health and the environment such as batteries, identifiable asbestos, pesticides, cleaning products and paints. There is no cost to the property owner for this work and you do not need to file a request to participate.  Once your property is cleared, a yellow clearance notice will be posted on the property.  This phase of the work began on Monday, December 18th.

Phase Two: Debris Removal and Property Clean-up

Option 1: Cal OES Fire Damage Debris Clearance Program (State Program)

During Phase Two, teams from the State (Cal Recycle) will remove the remaining debris (including building foundations) from properties with destroyed residential structures. A summary of eligibility requirements for properties that may qualify for the State Program can be found on the website.  You will need to provide Right-of-Entry (ROE) Permit and insurance information before the work can be done. This work will include removal of all burnt debris, foundations, hazardous trees, and some soil to ensure the site is clean and safe for building. All of the work is undertaken by CalRecycle contractors and there is no cost to the property owner; however, any insurance proceeds for debris removal shall be dedicated to off-set costs.

Ventura County Environmental Health must receive this ROE Permit on or before January 22, 2018.

  • Residential Debris Removal Right-of-Entry Permit (English)
  • Residential Debris Removal Right-of-Entry Permit (Español)

For questions and to submit a completed Right-of-Entry Permit to the Ventura County Environmental health Division, please visit the public counter at: 

  • Ventura County Environmental Health Division
    Hall of Administration, Room 311
    800 S. Victoria Ave. Ventura, CA  93009-1730, or
  • Email:

It is recommended that forms be submitted in person.

For more information on the Cal OES Fire Damage Debris Clearance Program, click here: English | Español.

Option 2: Local Fire Debris Removal Program (Local Program)

Property owners who choose not to participate in the State Program, must hire a private contractor(s) to remove fire debris and clean up their properties. Local debris removal must follow the standards adopted by the County of Ventura, which mirror the state standards being used by the Cal OES and CalRecycle for the State Program. Work must be performed by qualified personnel as set forth in the Local Fire Debris Removal Program Application Packet.

Deadline for submittal of a Local Fire Debris Removal Program Application and Work Plan is February 8, 2018. Submit application and work plan to the City of Ventura Public Works Department at 501 Poli Street, Room 120, Ventura, CA 93001 or email Joe Yahner:
For help with any questions you may have, please visit the Debris Removal Operations Center at 290 Maple Court, Suite 120, Ventura, CA.

A Local Fire Debris Removal Program Application must be submitted and approved by the City of Ventura prior to the commencement of work. Private debris removal is done at the homeowner’s expense and must meet or exceed the standards set by local, state and federal agencies. This includes compliance with all legal requirements for disposal, authorized disposal sites, best management practices for activities on site, proper transportation and documentation of waste, and erosion control.

After implementation of the approved Work Plan, the owner must submit a certification showing that all work has been completed as specified. Documentation of adequate clean-up and proper disposal will be required. Property owners will not be allowed to build on their property until there is a certification that the property cleanup and removal of all hazardous waste has been completed in accordance with applicable standards.

Your House Lot and the Thomas Fire Recovery

  • EarthGuard has been applied to house locations that suffered a complete loss to stabilize the ash and storm water runoff.
  • Phase 1 of lot cleanup will be done by the State of California Department of Toxic Substance Control - DTSC timeline on toxic waste removal is expected to start the week of December 18th and last for several weeks.
  • Phase 2 of lot cleanup may be done by the State or Federal Government - Cal Recycle timeline on pad and debris removal is expected to be from January to April of 2018.
  • The City's contact for more details and updates on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of cleanup is Joe Yahner, Environmental Services Manager (805) 652-4558. 
  • For some common methods of protecting your lot from being a source of stormwater runoff, see CASQA BMPs (California Stormwater Quality Association Best Management Practices),
  • For water meter information, call (805) 654-6500.
  • Utility companies will be working in the fire zone during the transition from PD/Fire control back to normal operations. City Public Works inspectors will also be in the area full-time during normal business hours inspecting as much work as possible and checking on coordinated temporary traffic control. Please contact Burt Yanez at (805) 275-6279 or Chuck Thrall at (805) 861-7041.
  • In an effort to avoid haul route permitting and damage to residential hillside streets, please plan to use smaller two-axle hauling trucks.
  • County page for fire information, Ventura EOC:
  • City page for fire information:
  • Additional information and updates:

The City is only spraying the structures that were a total loss during the Thomas Fire to help prevent hazardous material from becoming airborne and also to help prevent the hazardous ash and debris from leaving the property and entering the storm drain system. 

The material is called EarthGuard. MSDS sheets are attached for the liquid and the fiber for your use or distribution. MSDA EarthGuard Fiber Matrix
MSDS EarthGuard Liquid

The EarthGuard is being applied at two different times and in two different mix designs.

  • The first mix was sprayed on the lots and the structure slabs directly after the fire to help prevent the ash from becoming airborne. This mix was low on the fibers to allow the crews performing phase 1 of the demolition visibility for the material.
  • The second phase is being applied after the structure has had the hazardous material removed by Cal Recycle or phase 1 of the demolition. This mix is for the building slab only to lock in the material to help prevent the material from becoming airborne and to prevent the debris from being washed down to the street and into the storm drain system. 

Specific Issues:

  1. The City is not spraying the properties that people have been able to move back into or that residents can start working on, this would be the green or yellow tagged structures. We are only spraying the homes that are a total loss. Therefore, if a house is still standing and the garage is a total loss, it is the responsibility of the resident to take care of the property issues, cleanup and to place BMPs as appropriate. 
  2. The City is working with Ventura County Watershed Protection District on the hillsides above the City. This is not City Property; for the most part, it is privately owned property under the County's jurisdiction. 
  3. The City is also spraying around essential facilities to help with erosion control. These would be the Water Tank and Pump Station facilities as well as City Hall.
  4. The City is using Gallion Erosion Control as a contractor. Residents can hire who they want to work on their property.

Sewer Line Capping at Houses that were a Total Loss due to the Thomas Fire

Sewer lines had  to be capped to prevent fire and hazardous debris from entering the sewer system and either clogging or making its way to the wastewater plant. The issue with the plant is that we did not want the hazardous material to cause damage to the biology in the plant. It was estimated that every home had 7-10 pipes that burned to the slabs and into the ground that essentially produced open drains to the sewer system.

Directly after the Thomas Fire, the City hired a contractor to start capping the sewer laterals behind the curb on each property. This was intentionally completed for the following reasons:

  1. The home owner would not have to hire an “A” Licensed contractor to dig the street up and tie into the sewer system when they rebuild.
  2. The home owner would not have to apply for and pay for a permit from Public Works to tie into the sewer on the street. Since the sewer connection is located behind the curb, the “B” licensed contractor that builds the house can tie into it at any time.
  3. The fire was during our wet season and we did not want to have holes and areas where water would erode the roadways.

Most of the sewer laterals are not in the driveway for the house and therefore not an issue. However, many have been located under existing driveways and therefore a hole or the removal of pavers had to take place to dig down and cap the sewer lines.

With the construction of a new house, the sewer line will have to be replaced with new. To assist the resident, the City will have the location of the sewer line, depth of the line, the pipe material, and the size of the sewer lateral available to them at our public counter in Room 117.

Erosion and Ash Control Product Applied to Residences and Other Burned Areas in the City of Ventura

The City of Ventura Public Works Department has hired Galion Erosion Control to spray EarthGuard onto residences and other areas burned by the Thomas Fire.  The application is a public service to help keep hazardous material from getting into the storm drains by keeping it in place and preventing it from going onto other properties, as well as preventing the material from becoming airborne. EarthGuard is a polymer product mixed with water and sprayed with the same equipment used for hydroseeding.  The product will not impact sifting of personal materials and will not affect the ability to see properties.

EarthGuard is a non-hazardous, non-toxic product and will not cause any issues with the watershed or the replanting or re-growing of plants. It is used on construction projects throughout the nation for dust control.  The product is mixed with fiber and is green in color in order to show where it has been applied.

The application of EarthGuard began on December 12, 2017 in the homes where hazardous material burned.  The spraying began in the Clearpoint neighborhood and will proceed to Ondulando east, Ondulando west, Skyline, Hidden Valley and continue west. Other areas to be applied with EarthGuard include water facilities and parks citywide that were impacted by the Thomas Fire.  The spraying of EarthGuard is slated for the next few weeks. 

Other best management practices to control erosion include the use of straw waddles, silt fencing, and plastic sheeting; however, at this time these materials present a fire danger.

MSDS EarthGuard Fiber Matrix
MSDS EarthGuard Liquid
How to Use EarthGuard

Ventura County Recovers Website
Resource for Recovery Information Regarding the Thomas Fire

Debris Removal