backed by local fire agencies, to begin effort to reduce wildland
fire risk in hills above the campus
Janet Gilmore, Media Relations
- Aiming to avert a repeat of the deadly 1991 Oakland Hills
fire, University of California, Berkeley, officials and area
fire agencies are launching an extensive fire prevention effort
to protect homes and hillsides in the Panoramic Hill area
above the campus.
project is funded by the campus, the state Office of Emergency
Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
which will involve extensive pruning and the removal of trees
and brush, has the support of the East Bay Regional Parks
District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Berkeley
Fire Department, the Oakland Fire Department and the California
Department of Forestry.
projects of this type are an extremely important element in
helping to prevent large, damaging fires in urban wildland
areas," said Steven F. Woodill, chief of the California Department
of Forestry's Santa Clara Ranger Unit, which covers Alameda
and Contra Costa counties. "CDF and the Diablo Firesafe Council
are very supportive of projects of this type."
5, work crews are scheduled to begin to thin trees and remove
overgrown brush in the Panoramic Hill area, reducing the risk
of wildfires and providing firefighters with the open space
needed to set up trucks and battle any wildland fires that
Hill area is between Panoramic Way and Centennial Drive. It
is bounded by residential neighborhoods to the west, the Grizzly
Peak area to the east, Claremont Canyon to the south and Strawberry
Canyon to the north.
crews will fell 840 of the approximately 2,400 trees in the
area and prune tree trunks - steps that will lessen the risk
of fire climbing up trees and allowing burning embers to fall
from treetops to homes in neighborhoods below in the Panoramic
Hill area and Elmwood district.
of directors of the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents
neighbors in that area, endorsed the fire prevention project.
wildfires moved into Berkeley in 1923, 1970, 1984, and 1991,"
said resident Dick White. "We clearly need buffer zones where
approaching wildfires can be fought. As a resident of Panoramic
Hill, where our houses adjoin Strawberry Canyon, I'm delighted
to see the start of this university-FEMA project."
Oakland Hills fire destroyed more than 3,200 homes and caused
Williams, a UC Berkeley adjunct professor of forestry who
has been working with local agencies on the Panoramic Hill
project, said eucalyptus trees and Monterey pine trees allowed
burning embers to jump from treetops to homes during the 1991
bark and leaves are aerodynamic and burning embers from these
materials - along with Monterey pine needles and paper - were
the primary factors in spreading fire from the woodlands to
nearby homes during that fire, Williams said.
the trees in the Panoramic Hill project area are Monterey
for Monterey pines is 60 to 80 years," said Williams. "Many
of the Monterey pines in the Panoramic Hill area have reached
their lifespan. They're now in the process of falling apart.
With these elderly trees, the area is a fairly high hazard
the project area include several varieties of the conifer
species. These non-native trees, which also include cedar,
Douglas fir and other trees, were planted during the 1920s
and 1930s for teaching and research purposes. They are no
longer used for study.
Panoramic Hill area is considered high-risk not only because
of the type of trees there. Wind and geographic conditions
there can produce a setting ripe for wildfires, according
to Jim Horner, the project manager and campus landscape architect.
brush on other university land has been managed by crews that
remove the brush by hand, or by goats brought in to eat away
Hill project will be completed in three phases with 540 trees
felled during the first phase, which is scheduled to begin
Sept. 5 and conclude by Oct. 15. Later phases will begin in
the spring or summer with the project completed by fall 2001.
officials have alerted neighbors about the project which,
for safety reasons, will entail the closure of the Lower Jordan
Fire Trail and the parking area at the intersection of that
trail and Centennial Drive. As with any such tree-felling
project, the job will entail large work crews, heavy trucks
and associated noise.
scheduled to work Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hauling will not occur during peak traffic hours.
Logging and Construction of Palo Cedro will fell the trees,
cut them into 24-foot logs and truck them out of town. Wood
will be donated to Protect All Life, a nonprofit organization
based in Half Moon Bay that recycles lumber for artistic projects.