Felled, fire damaged trees left beside Old Howell Mountain Rd. photo credit: (Credit: Dianne Dillon)
Pacific Gas and Electric has abruptly changed course and will remove logs burnt and cut down in 2019 and 2020 in Sonoma county.
The giant Northern California utility has had an on-again, off-again policy concerning wildfire-damaged trees cut down by itself or its contractors. After the 2017 and '18 fires it hauled the cut logs away. After the 2019 and 2020 fires they were were cut down but left. Following months of pressure, PGE is once again hauling them away.
Johannes Hoevertsz is director of transportation and public works for the County of Sonoma. He told KRCB he's been fielding questions and complaints from concerned and frustrated landowners...and describes the change as a 'very good surprise.'
"I don't know how or why that changed." But, Hoevertsz said, it makes a lot of sense. "If you drop the tree, remove it and don't leave it for someone else to be responsible for it."
That's been an issue. Some dead or dying trees qualify for removal by FEMA or CalOES. Others, by PG&E. Still others, by agencies such as Hoevertsz's. One factor helping determine financial responsibility is where the tree might fall. Thousands of felled trees wound up in limbo.
Once a dead tree was chopped down by PG&E or its contractors, they couldn't fall. If they couldn't fall, they no longer threaten surrounding infrastructure, and wound up the responsibility of landowners. No federal aid, no state aid and no help from PG&E.
But the felled trees still present dangers, Hoevertsz said. "If we left that wood on the ground, first of all it would be a hazard to motorists, and it would be a fire risk the next time we have a fire. That's just timber there to burn next to the road, next to residences."
For property owners with burnt and dead trees needing removal, participation requires a signature allowing PG&E on to private property and absolving them of liability. A link to the required form is on the SoCo emergency site.
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