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Mountain Area fire council awarded $99,000 to fight tree mortality

Dead trees stand at the water's edge at Bass Lake from this file photo in December, 2015. Mostly ponderosa and sugar pine trees are dying off in large numbers around Eastern Madera County. A fire safe council was recently awarded $99,000 to help combat the issue.
Dead trees stand at the water's edge at Bass Lake from this file photo in December, 2015. Mostly ponderosa and sugar pine trees are dying off in large numbers around Eastern Madera County. A fire safe council was recently awarded $99,000 to help combat the issue. Fresno Bee file photo

Pacific Gas and Electric Company recently awarded a fire safe council in Eastern Madera County nearly $100,000 to help reduce the continued threat of wildfires by focusing on the ongoing issue of tree mortality.

The Yosemite/Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council, with its home office in North Fork, was given $99,000.

Justine Reynolds, project manager, said the council has earmarked the funds for two projects - clear trees from the North Fork Recreation Center and nearby property ($88,000), and for North Fork Elementary School to help clear fuels around the area ($11,000).

“The North Fork Recreation Center is where dead trees pose a real hazard and prevent the center from opening for regular activities,” Reynolds said. “So we’re really excited to get this project implemented and get the summer programs up and running.”

Reynolds said the council will work with its two partners, the North Fork Boosters and North Fork Development Council on each project.

More than 100 million trees are expected dead across the state as a result of the drought and bark beetle infestations. Last summer, PG&E signed a multi-million dollar contract to remove dead trees in Central California counties.

Kevin Dasso, PG&E’s vice president of electric asset management, said in a statement the grants demonstrated the company’s continued commitment to keeping customers and communities safe.

“While most California counties received significant rainfall this winter, the tree mortality crisis will linger for years,” Dasso said. “And, as (Governor Jerry Brown) points out, the next drought could be around the corner. That is why we’re taking extraordinary measures to protect our electric infrastructure, and help local fire safe councils dedicated to making communities more fire safe.”

Also awarded funds were Fresno County’s Highway 168 Fire Safe Council ($100,00) and Oak to Timberline Fire Safe Council on Highway 180 ($75,000), and the Mariposa Fire Safe Council ($100,000) and Sierra Foothill Conservancy ($50,000) in Mariposa County.

In total, PG&E awarded nearly $2 million to fund 43 fire safe councils and other nonprofit projects in 21 counties. Such work includes fuel reduction, shaded fuel breaks, emergency access and chipping programs.

It is the fourth straight year PG&E has funded fire safe councils.

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