BASS LAKE — More than 1,300 dead and dying trees have been taken down along Road 274, eliminating hazards to motorists and providing residents with a wealth of easily accessible firewood.
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, crews from Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service completed the last stretch of Road 274 between Marina View and Mono Wind Way, dropping about 200 trees. They had taken down about 1,100 over three days last week.
Many of the trees were dropped across the roadway, and were bucked into 10 ft. lengths and left in pull-outs for the public to collect. This is a County right-of-way, and the wood is free for the taking. A representative for the Forest Service says no permits are needed for the wood from this specific project.
For the moment, this completes the bulk of the process of removing the hazard trees along Road 274, says Burt Stalter, Battalion Chief and Fuels Management Specialist on the Bass Lake Ranger District, Sierra National Forest.
“It is likely we may have to cycle back through later in 2016 as more trees die off, but the work we accomplished here should get us through the winter and spring weather events,” says Stalter.
He commends all the agencies who worked so well together to accomplish this task, including the Forest Service, Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, County Roads and the Sheriff’s Office.
“Great work by all involved,” said Stalter. “Everything was completed safely with no injuries or near misses on the project. I would like to say thank you to the public who were patient and supportive of our work, and look forward to more collaborative work projects like this in the future.”
The work of falling all these trees likely went as smoothly and safely as it did due to the caliber of men on the job.
Stalter is a very experienced and skilled faller, who works quickly and with great precision. Len Nielson, Unit Forester with Cal Fire, has bragging rights as the winner of the title of Champion Logger at this year’s Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in July.
Others on the team included Jeff McCarrol, Jonathon Berry, Jeff Newman, Keith Swoope, Craig Waag, Jeff Schutt, Clark Daily, Matt Arebolo, Jack Thornburg, Matt Dunlap, Marc Wilson, Rafael Sanchez, Charles Berner, Drew Derriek, Elodio Oronia, and Gilbert Estrada.
Stalter gives credit to another important element on the project — the efforts of the workers from the County Roads, who kept things moving by clearing out the debris, managing traffic, and making the road passable in as timely a manner as possible.
Everyone involved is anxious to move ahead with other collaborative efforts between the participating agencies, and is encouraged by the outstanding success and smooth operation of this project. They saw a huge problem coming, made a plan, got out ahead of it, and worked well together.
“It takes all of us helping each other to be successful,” says Len Nielson, citing the old adage that many hands make light work.
Stalter notes that this type of collaboration leverages the limited funding available to all agencies, and calls this an unprecedented event.
Speaking of funding, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson reports that some of the funding for this project came from the annual Fire Prevention Fee we have all been paying for the last several years.
Another hazard tree removal project on Highway 41 — from Cedar Valley to Yosemite — is in the works, though details and dates have not yet been nailed down.