To add to the fuel treatment debate mix.. What does the fuel issue look like in a D state when you take the FS out of the equation? (given that the reporter isn’t as cautious about his language about “to blame” for wildfires as readers of this blog would prefer). Here’s the link.
While human error continues to be the leading cause of wildfires, the number of dead trees and densely overgrown brush are responsible for some of the most damaging and difficult to control fires.
In October 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency declaration to address the number of dead and dying trees as a result of extended drought conditions. An estimated 102 million trees died between 2010 and 2016 during the Golden State’s devastating drought, with about 62 million perishing in 2016 alone.
These trees are frequently to blame for wildfires, including the 2015 Butte Fire that burned 70,000 acres and destroyed 900 structures after a dead pine tree fell on power lines.
Cal Fire has partnered with the California Conservation Corps to organize crews to clear dead trees and conduct controlled burns in densely forested areas.
Pimlott informed the subcommittee that in the time since the declaration, Pacific Gas & Electric has cleared trees and brush from 100,000 miles of power lines across the state. California has spent $418 million to remove dead and dying trees statewide, which has been instrumental to reducing the amount of property damage caused by fires.
“Collectively, we have removed over 800,000 trees since the declaration,” Pimlott said. “We have focused primarily on the property damage side of things.” He credits the ability of multiple agencies, including Cal Fire, Caltrans, PG&E and others who have worked together to reduce the risk of unintentional fires.
Pimlott said the state needs to commit more money to fire prevention and forest maintenance projects.
“Fifteen million dollars really isn’t enough to deal with our forest health challenges,” Pimlott said. “We really need to look at more significant investments.”
Pimlott said a proposed $150 million appropriation would make a nice start toward a long-term solution to wildfires in California.
If you go to Governor Brown’s site here, you find:
The tree die-off is of such a scale that it significantly worsens wildfire risk in many areas of the state and presents life safety risks from falling trees to Californians living in rural, forested communities. Several counties have declared local state of emergencies due to this epidemic tree mortality.
The Governor’s state of emergency proclamation on the tree mortality epidemic builds on the April 2014 executive order to redouble the state’s drought response, which included provisions to expedite the removal of dead and dying hazardous trees. Today’s proclamation helps identify high hazard zones for wildfire and falling trees that have resulted from the unprecedented die-off and prioritizes tree removal in these areas. It also calls for state agencies to take several actions to enable removal of hazard trees. Governor Brown’s letter to Secretary Vilsack requests urgent federal action, including additional technical assistance for private land owners, matching federal funding and expedited approval for emergency actions on federal lands.
In addition, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and CAL FIRE are convening a Task Force on Tree Mortality comprised of state and federal agencies, local governments and utilities that will coordinate emergency protective actions and monitor ongoing conditions.
I’d be interested in observations from California NCFPers on this..