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Fire and rain: Wine country storm could cause toxic runoff in burn zones




SANTA ROSA, CA - OCTOBER 10: A neighborhood is destroyed by fire in the area of Foxtail Court, on October 10, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. In one of the worst wildfires in state history, at least 1,500 homes have burned and 11 people have died as more than 14 wildfires continue to spread in eight Northern California counties.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
SANTA ROSA, CA - OCTOBER 10: A neighborhood is destroyed by fire in the area of Foxtail Court, on October 10, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. In one of the worst wildfires in state history, at least 1,500 homes have burned and 11 people have died as more than 14 wildfires continue to spread in eight Northern California counties. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

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Officials in Northern California are bracing for the area's first storm this weekend. A cold front from Canada is expected to bring rain as early as Friday. 

And that's cause for concern for many in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, where last month's fires scorched thousands of acres. Now, local agencies are facing new challenges, including potentially toxic runoff from burn zones.

Everyday contaminants like propane, paint, and household cleaners have already been a concern for cleanup crews. As for the exact chemicals that could show up in storm runoff, "It's really unknown," says Josh Curtis, environmental program manager for the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. "We don't know what things are in those homes." 

He continues:

The big effort we're looking at is trying to mitigate any ability of those materials to leave those sites and go into our storm drains, which, as everyone knows, leads to our streams and our oceans. 

We're working with the local communities to ensure that street sweeping happens, that storm drains are plugged. 

We're looking at a plan to collect stormwater and see about disposing of it in a way that doesn't put it back in the stormwater system and then to our creeks. 

It's really about trying to make sure that the stuff that is there can't make it to our streams and we're doing that work as fast as we can. 

Press the blue play button above to hear more about efforts to limit the flow of toxic runoff.