$3.3 million to fund fire fuels reduction on West Slope | TahoeDailyTribune.com

$3.3 million to fund fire fuels reduction on West Slope

Eric Jaramishian / Mountain Democrat

The El Dorado County Fire Safe Council will receive more than $3.3 million to reduce fire fuels along roads and remove bark beetle killed trees.

The grants are part of a nearly $118 million Cal Fire grant package, which will fund 144 wildfire prevention projects across California, according to a press release from Cal Fire.

The fire safe council will receive more than $2 million for a south county fuel reduction project to create four shaded fuel breaks on 447 acres and hazardous fuel reduction along nearly 33 miles of priority county roads — portions of Outingdale, Fairplay, Omo Ranch, Mt. Aukum, Pleasant Valley, Oak Hill and Big Oak roads and a portion of Fowler Lane.

The project is designed to increase wildfire resiliency, improve access for first responders during a wildfire, improve emergency egress for more than 27,000 residents and reduce roadway-related wildfire ignitions, the press release states.

The treatment zone encompasses 845 acres, where 4,813 residences at or in the vicinity of the project are expected to benefit. Communities within the project area include Diamond Springs, Omo Ranch and Outingdale.

More than $1.2 million was awarded for dead and dying tree removal to slow the bark beetle infestation that has killed thousands of trees in the county since 2015. Cal Fire officials state the beetles are reproducing and spreading to more trees. The trees threaten public safety as they could fall on structures, access roads and electrical lines, as well as fuel a fire.

“(Bark beetle infestation) is a large issue that affects the Central Sierra and now the Northern Sierra,” said Ken Pimlott, chair of the El Dorado County Fire Safe Council. “There is a broader issue of the drought that has created this disposition with these trees.”

During a voluntary enrollment period, residents can apply to have hazard trees removed within 150 feet from their home, permitted structures or access route.

Most households will be required to contribute a quarter of the cost. Each household will cost around $4,000. Households below 100% of current area low-income levels will have no contribution requirement.

“Removing these trees can get very expensive and not many people would be able to afford to do this, so this will be a huge benefit to the community,” Pimlott said.

The project covers more than 51,000 structures.

The application for this service will be made available in December of this year, said El Dorado County Fire Council executives.

Another $705,670 was granted for implementing shaded fuel breaks along access roads in Coloma and Lotus, an area that hosts more than 400,000 visitors in the historical and recreation area.

Pimlott said the fuel break projects in south county and Coloma/Lotus could start as early as summer or early fall.

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