To protect one of Bass Lake’s major roadways, a Cal Fire crew will cut down hundreds of dead trees along Malum Ridge Road (274) from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3.
They will be assisted by the U.S. Forest Service, Madera County Sheriff’s Office, and the county’s Road Department.
Cal Fire forester Len Nielson said the operation is necessary because, with oncoming winter weather, dead trees can be dangerous to driver and roadway safety.
“This is a main thoroughfare road in our county that has hundreds, if not thousands of people that drive on it every day,” Nielson said. “So if we get a huge storm along it, it could be a week before the road’s open. Trees could fall on cars, on houses, on power lines, it’s a hazard.”
Nielson said the operation is scheduled to begin north of Bass Lake at Road 274, near the Bass Lake Volunteer Fire Station, at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1.
The goal is to get to the southeast end of the lake at the intersection of Road 274 and Central Camp Road, Nielson said, though that depends on the number of staff available each day.
“I’ve requested 10 people, and if we all cut down 20 a day, that’s 200 trees a day,” Nielson said, noting plans are yet to be finalized.
Traffic closures, and one-way delays, are expected from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout the three-day project.
“If we fall a big tree into the roadway, it’ll be too big for us to keep one lane of traffic open so we’ll clean up a side, push it over into the roadway, and open a lane,” Nielson said as an example, adding any closures will last around 15 to 30 minutes.
Based on a preliminary walkthrough, Nielson estimates around 1,200 dead trees are in the project’s area, and the goal is to cut down as many as possible.
Cal Fire can’t fell trees near powerlines due to liability issues, Nielson said. That work is left to Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Cal Fire also does not cut down trees next to homes.
Nielson said plans also haven’t been finalized on what will happen to all the wood.
“That’s the million dollar question right there,” Nielson said. “Some of the wood, we expect, will be on turnouts for people to cut up as firewood. Some will belong to the U.S. Forest Service, some will belong to the county, and it’s up to them what they’ll do with it.
“We’re not out there logging, we’re out there mitigating roadway hazards.”
The sheriff’s office will use community notifications and signage to notify the area’s residents about the project.
The operation follows a state of emergency order by Governor Jerry Brown late last month due to millions of dead trees in California forests.
Mowbray’s Tree Service from San Bernardino, through a contract with PG&E, has been cutting down 2,500 dead trees in the Bass Lake area for months, near powerlines and homes.