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Cascadel Woods Residents Work Together To Be Firewise

Written by Aimee Cox — 

Anne Poplarchick, Cal Fire Prevention/Defensible Space Inspector; Simon Elman, Volunteer in Prevention/Cal Fire and Cascadel Fire Brigade Member; and Natasha Noble, Cal Fire Defensible Space Inspector – photo courtesy of Carol Eggink

NORTH FORK — The community of Cascadel Woods hosted it’s annual Firewise Day on Saturday, May 20, at the Cascadel Clubhouse. Guest speakers included Cal Fire, Forest Service, PG&E, and Citizens on Patrol (COPs).

Cascadel Woods has been a Firewise Community since 2012 and hosts this annual event in order to provide valuable information to residents on wildfire preparedness, fire and electrical power line safety in the event of an emergency, and to educate the community on specific ways they can prepare for wildfire.

Over the last few years, Cascadel residents have had to evacuate due to several wildfire events, most notably the Willow Fire of 2015 and last year’s North Fork Fire that raced up the hillside below the community near the Old Mill Site.

The threat of wildfire remains, and in response, the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association (CWPOA) Board of Directors pursued several grants with local partners and have successfully been awarded funds to assist residents in dealing with the tree mortality situation. Over 3,000 trees have been left dead from the drought and bug kill epidemic in the community.

The grant funds were awarded through the California Fire Safe Council and Cal Fire’s more recent Tree Mortality grant programs. Both grants allow for contract tree falling and removal from private properties within the Cascadel Woods subdivision.

Approximately $40,000 was spent during the month of May alone to remove these hazards with an additional $63,000 awarded under a second grant already under contract. The work is being performed by Shane Killian Construction.

Shane Killian, local owner/operator, is excited to assist the community and “see everybody working together, putting forth positive efforts and helping out their neighbors” with the tree removal efforts.

The grants are being administered by the Yosemite Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council (YSRCDC) and the Foundation for Resource Conservation, Inc., both local non-profits, with on-the-ground assistance and in-kind match from the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association (CWPOA) and Cascadel Woods Mutual Water Company, including traffic control, logistics and record keeping and reporting.

In addition, the Cascadel Firewise Committee and Cascadel Fire Brigade are supporting these grants with in-kind match of labor including monthly chipping days to assist residents with reducing the community’s wildfire risk through a generous loan of a chipper from YSRCDC.

A Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event was held on May 6 in Cascadel Woods as part of a $500 grant received from the National Fire Protection Association sponsored by State Farm, who generously awarded a similar grant to the community last year.

A major factor of the success of this work has been the assistance and coordination with Cal Fire’s Mount Bullion Crew which has been assisting the community for several weeks by supporting an in-kind match for the grant of 20 crew days.

The Mount Bullion crew’s work has enabled the grant funds to go further by allowing the crews to cut dead hazard trees while the contract crew comes in behind them to remove and haul the logs to a storage facility located at the Old Mill Site. The Mount Bullion crew can then resume collecting and chipping the hazardous fuels and slash left behind.

“Working together by following up behind the contractors has allowed us to maximize the workload,” said Matt Arebalo, Cal Fire’s Fire Captain for the Mount Bullion Crew. “It is also great for the inmates doing the work to know it is for a good cause for the benefit of this community.”

All of this work to remove dead trees and address the tree mortality situation in Cascadel Woods is also being complemented through PG&E’s debris removal program which provides free assistance to residents by removing logs that were felled by PG&E from their properties. Previous contract tree removal work up to $33,000 through PG&E’s Hazardous Fuels Reduction grant program assisted the community through cutting and removal of dead trees on properties within the subdivision earlier this year.

During his presentation at the Firewise Day, Dan Tune, U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Battalion Chief, commended the community on their hard work and notable efforts to reduce risk of wildfire. These sentiments were shared by Natasha Noble, one of several Cal Fire representatives at the event who are currently conducting defensible space inspections on properties in Cascadel Woods. The inspections help to ensure that residents are performing their hazard clearing in a timely manner, and provide helpful tips and suggestions through their Ready For Wildfire campaign.

It is estimated that over one-third of the dead trees have been removed from Cascadel Woods. However, more work is needed to continue efforts to address the tree mortality, and with that remains a need for further assistance and grant funding. The CWPOA Board of Directors is currently researching other grant opportunities to assist our continued efforts in removing hazard trees and reducing our risk of wildfire.

Residents are very concerned with Governor Jerry Brown’s recent announcement of a revision to the 2017-2018 state budget which proposes a $50 million cut reducing funds to just $2 million Statewide in tree mortality funding and wondering what that means for communities that are still at risk from the lasting effects of the drought and tree mortality.

Before and After pictures of all the community’s hard work. (All photos courtesy of Carol Eggink.)

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