Your Questions Answered: How Do I Get Burned Trees Off My Property? Will Native Trees Be Cut Down?

May 2, 2019

A once healthy forrest in Concow Calif. totally obliterated by the Camp Fire.
Credit Marc Albert

Listener Beverly Ellefson asked NSPR: “There are a lot of burned trees on my property that PG&E says is not their responsibility to take down, which I can understand, but what help can we get to find someone who will take them down for us? Hopefully at no charge.”

Beverly, here’s what we found out. You are far from alone in terms of your concerns. PG&E is removing trees, lots of them throughout the burn area, but only if the trees pose a direct threat to a powerline.

Basically, PG&E is removing trees within 12-and-a-half feet of a power pole, and dead or diseased standing trees that could fall on a power line. If you feel PG&E made an error, and you’d like to appeal, call PG&E customer service at (800)-743-5000.

Butte County and the Town of Paradise are also removing trees, but only ones posing a threat to a town or county right-of-way, generally meaning a road. County spokeswoman Casey Hatcher said virtually all of the trees slated for removal have already been marked, but work is still underway. Both the Butte Fire Safe Council and Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council are attempting to obtain funding for some kind of program that might help pay for such removal.

Listener Helene Stevens also submitted a question to NSPR asking: “Might be answered is not very hopeful, but what the heck. Are we going to let PG&E take down native species because they pose a threat?”

Helene, the short answer is, yes. The tree removal guidelines that PG&E is operating under are approved and enforced by the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulatory body overseeing investor-owned utilities. The commission’s guidelines make no provision for exempting native trees, such as Ponderosa Pines and Incense Cedars from removal if they pose a hazard.