The Conservancy is busy on several fronts—living up to our commitment to be vigilant about wildfire safety while encouraging a healthy native environment in Claremont Canyon. Unfortunately, wildfire danger continues to be a major issue as fire season is becoming a year round concern. Public agencies are unable to devote the financial and human resources necessary to address it.
The Conservancy has previously reported its full support of UC Berkeley’s efforts to recover funding granted in 2015 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The grants were to reduce fire danger on UC's hill campus in Claremont and Strawberry canyons by removing stands of hazardous trees.
"My Word," reprinted from East Bay with permission from Sue Piper.
"Take action like your life and those of your loved ones depend on it. " This is not just to be sure that Oakland residents living in the hills won’t have to flee for their lives when the next firestorm hits — as it surely will, given five years of California drought, the growing numbers of dead and dying trees, and the unusual topography of the Caldecott Tunnel that leads to small fires every year and major wildfires every 20 years.
It’s Time to Wake Up and Get Real About Wildfire Risk
We are experiencing a perfect storm as record heat, drought, massive numbers of dead trees, and dying forests are leading to the spread of wildfires like we have never seen before throughout the western United States and Canada. Instead of naively thinking your homeowner’s insurance is going to make up for the trauma of losing your home, or that overwhelmed firefighters are going to be able to save it, it’s time you woke up and got real.
You have probably heard by now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has withdrawn $3.5 million in wild fire hazard mitigation grants previously awarded to the University of California and the City of Oakland. As a result, both agencies will be postponing much needed vegetation management programs in their parks and open spaces throughout the Oakland Hills, including in Claremont Canyon.
In response to a request for public comment, the Conservancy has written a detailed, five plus page letter in support of the University's plan to implement its grant from FEMA to make the hills above our homes more fire safe. The plan is extremely detailed and addresses all the concerns that have been raised during the years long federal environmental review process.
The welcome rains of this winter and spring have renewed the natural beauty of Claremont Canyon . . . the EIS for the three grants was approved by FEMA and is now considered complete on the federal end. The next step . . .
Bring Back the Oaks, a video focusing on the build-up of fire fuels in the East Bay hills, and a sensible way to deal with it, was released in spring 2016 with the hands-on participation and financial support from the Conservancy.
In response to a request for public comment, the Conservancy has written a detailed letter in support of the University's plan to implement its grant from FEMA to make the hills above our homes more fire safe. The plan is extremely detailed and addresses all the concerns that have been raised during the years long federal environmental review process
I can now say with confidence that all three FEMA-funded grants—Oakland’s, the Park District’s and UC’s—are set to move forward. Thanks to excellent media coverage, the public is now better informed about the need for wildfire prevention projects and better understands the responsibility that comes with providing a safer environment for all.
Reprinted from the online Yodeler, September 16, 2015, with permission from the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club. For a copy of their flyer prepared for members and the public, click here.
As we slog through our fourth year of drought and once again watch wildfires devastate communities all across California and the West, we must acknowledge that the hotter, drier conditions we face due to climate disruption are not going away.
Eucalyptus trees are magnificent and picturesque, but they are inherently dangerous and invasive, depriving native plants of the chance to thrive wherever they grow.
The East Bay Regional Park District took a major step forward this week in its long-term public safety efforts to reduce fire hazards in the East Bay Hills by accepting $4.65 million in federal grants to reduce dangerous trees and foliage in the hills from Oakland north to Richmond.
After 10 years, FEMA finally has issued its Record of Decision (ROD) on grants to reduce the fire danger posed by the eucalyptus trees in Claremont Canyon and the East Bay Hills. The ROD is not ideal. The Claremont Canyon Conservancy would have preferred the original draft that enabled the three grant applicants (UC Berkeley, the City of Oakland and the Regional Park District) to use the funds as each saw fit, rather than requiring all three grantees to use a “unified approach.”
On December 1, FEMA released the Final Environmental Impact Statement that sets conditions that must be followed by the University of California and the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District as they move forward with eucalyptus removal. The Conservancy has not yet examined the document in detail but here's our initial impression.
This year’s drought has made all of us increasingly aware of the need to be watchful for anything that might spark a fire. In January, we had a small fire in the upper canyon. Fortunately the day was nearly windless and the fire was put out quickly, its source never determined (see page 5)
THE ALARM SOUNDED AT 11:21 am. A fire of unknown size and origin was burning in Claremont Canyon. The cell- phone caller who was first to alert the Oakland Fire Department, reported a lot of smoke in the upper canyon not far from the intersection of Claremont Avenue, Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Fish Ranch Road. It was Tuesday, January 21, 2014—well into the driest winter ever recorded in the East Bay.
Residents of Claremont Canyon know from first hand experience that fire in a stand of eucalyptus can spread downwind very rapidly under Diablo Wind conditions.
AGENCY DECISIONS ABOUT GROWING large blue gum eucalyptus trees may be as risky as Frank Havens’ Mahogany Eucalyptus and Land Company of the early 1900s. That enterprise ultimately went belly-up when Havens’ 3,000 acres of eucalyptus trees in the East Bay Hills failed to become a “gold mine,” proving to be unusable for hardwood lumber.
As I write this message, we await the release this spring of Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA’s) draft environmental impact statement (EIS) covering wildfire hazard mitigation projects planned for the East Bay Hills.