OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — The East Bay Regional Park District has millions of dollars to spend for wildfire prevention, thanks to funding from the state budget.
Lawmakers representing Berkeley, Fremont and Orinda are deciding how this $13.5 million will be split. A majority of it would go toward removing dead and dyinh trees in regional parks, Senators Nancy Skinner and Bob Wieckowski proposed.
The remaining $3.5 million would provide fire equipment to improve the park district’s ability to fight fires, assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan recommended. This includes replacing a helicopter used to drop water on fires that burn in ‘inaccessible terrain,’ according to the East Bay Regional Park District press release.
“EBRPD has more than 1,500 acres of dead or dying trees affected by drought and climate change conditions that need immediate attention,” EBRPD Fire Chief Aileen Theile said, adding “these State funds couldn’t come at a better time as we are shovel ready” with designated projects to remove dangerous fuels in District parks while helping to keep forests healthy.
Removing dead and dying trees is a costly action. The park district said the estimated cost to cover 1,500 acres would be over double the total funding they received – $30 million.
Sudden tree die-off has impacted eucalyptus, acacia, bay and pine in the East Bay. Authorities said they first noticed the phenomenon in October 2020.
Here are the East Bay locations where tree die-off has been seen the most:
- Anthony Chabot and Reinhardt Redwood Regional Parks in Oakland
- Miller Knox Regional Shoreline in Richmond
- Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley/Orinda
This increases wildfire risk significantly as dead trees can burn hotter and faster, and are able to potentially ignire more fires.
The East Bay Regional Park District said it already has a wildfire vegetation management plan in place and has invested $20.5 million over the last decade to prevent wildfires in the East Bay hills.