Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall and fire department forester Jeff Gletne laid out the status of the county’s efforts to remove thousands of dead wildland pine trees killed by bark beetles in a report to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.
So far the county has cleared trees in Bear Valley Springs and Alta Vista using a number of different resources and in cooperation with utility companies.
But the effort got a serious shot in the arm recently.
The county has obtained just under $2.2 million in state grant funds to take down trees near county roadways and public facilities to protect residents from falling trees and the threat of wildfires near small mountain communities.
“Although we are getting rain dead trees are still dead trees and they will remain dead trees.
We have to get those out before we have a mega-fire,” Marshall said.
He said there are likely seven to eight million dead trees in Kern County, killed by drought and an infestation of beetles that has decimated forests up and down California.
The county effort is targeting 4,320 trees that Gletne has determined are the biggest dangers in five rural enclaves.
Those communities include Tehachapi, Piute, Mt. Pinos, Greenhorn and Breckenridge.
That works out to about $500 a tree which, Supervisor Leticia Perez noted, is pretty expensive.
Gletne said it is expensive, though other areas are paying more than twice that.
He hopes that they can draft contracts with logging firms than can offer the county a deal on cleaning up the mess.
The first work will be taking down around 320 dead trees in Tehachapi Mountain Park.
After that the work will move to 400 dead trees near Pine Mountain Club.
Bids on that work should be out by summer, Gletne said, and those first two projects could be completed within a year.