Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park has applied for $200,000 to help cut down underbrush that one of its board members, a former Cal Fire Captain, said has grown exceedingly dangerous to dozens of homes and Wasuma Elementary School.
Alan Kinsel, who worked in Fresno County, didn’t mince words when walking through brush that had grown to as high as 50 feet inside the park.
“It’s extremely bad,” Kinsel said. “If a fire starts in the park or near it, it could easily get out and burn homes around here.”
Kinsel estimated some 75 homes, likely more, were immediately threatened near the park’s 400-acre boundaries in Ahwahnee, with additional buildings along Peterson Creek Highway 49 corridor also affected should a fire ever take place.
If granted, the money will be used towards equipment to cut 300-foot fuel breaks around a 160-acre section of the park, mostly towards its northeastern section near the creek.
Tony Ward, a board member for the park, said no clear cutting - or removal of healthy trees - will take place, but underbrush for various oak and other plant species must be cut down.
“This whole park is a fire waiting to happen,” Ward said. “Really, it’s a very dangerous area. This work needs to be done.”
Fern Facchino, the park’s chairwoman, said if the grant application is rejected, the park will remain a fire threat.
“We do nothing, basically,” she said if the application is denied. “We don’t have the finances or the funding to pay for that kind of a job.”
The money is available through $15.75 million allocated by the State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Fund and Tree Mortality Grant Program towards removal of hazardous trees or fire prevention projects and activities.
The deadline for grant applications was Sept. 28. Facchino said the state will notify the park’s board in November whether they will receive the grant.