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Supervisors approve fuel reduction grant application


Last updated 5/9/2008 at Noon

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 April 23, with Supervisor Ron Roberts representing the county, at an airport master plan meeting to authorize the application for U.S. Forest Service and other Federal grants for hazardous fire fuel reduction activities, and to authorize the acceptance of the grants if offered.

County staff and Congressional members representing San Diego County believe that approximately $4.5 million of current fiscal year funds will be provided to the County of San Diego for its Fire Safety and Fuels Reduction Program, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has submitted legislation seeking additional funding for the program.

“We appreciate that,” Supervisor Bill Horn said of the grant offers.

“Firefighting really begins before the fire even starts,” Horn said. “This is an ongoing program that’s going to have to take place.”

In June 2004 the supervisors established the Fire Safety and Fuels Reduction Program to remove dead, dying, and diseased trees. A combination of drought and bark beetle infestations has led to a mortality rate of up to 80 percent of trees in some areas, and in November 2002 the supervisors declared a proclamation of local emergency due to the bark beetle infestation.

“The years of drought, as we well know, and the widespread beetle infestation continue to wreak havoc,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “There is a lot more work that needs to be done.”

The program so far has utilized $47 million to remove more than 417,000 dead, dying, and diseased trees from 3,350 parcels. The program also created safe evacuation corridors on approximately 250 miles of roads. The removal of the hazardous fire fuel is considered a factor in limiting the damage caused by the October 2007 fires. “Despite the devastation we saw last year, it could have been far more if we hadn’t removed over 417,000 trees,” Horn said.

The threatened Palomar Mountain area was spared from extensive damage during the October 2007 Poomacha Fire. Approximately 96,000 dead trees in the Palomar Mountain area were removed as part of the program.

The removed biomass can be used for on-site ground cover or can also be transported to shipping and composting companies, providing some environmental and economic benefit as well as a reduction in fire risk.

The U.S. Forest Service’s expected $4.5 million grant will require a 10 percent local match, although the county’s in-kind services will qualify for that match.


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