Thousands of trees damaged in CZU Fires being cut down

Bay Area

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) – The mammoth effort to deal with the devastation wrought by the CZU Lighting Complex Fire.

Thousands of dead and dying trees are a threat to public safety and are being cut down.

Swanton Road in Bonny Doon is a heartbreaking mess. Logging trucks haul load after a load of dead trees felled by crews working to keep residents and traffic out of harm’s way.  

1,100 trees have been marked for removal here on Swanton Road alone says the county’s, Steve Wiesner.

“What the county’s doing right now is we’re going through and doing a full assessment of trees within the public roadway and just outside the public roadway where trees could fall and impact the public roadway,” Wiesner, with Santa Cruz County Public Works, said. 

Chainsaws echo through the mountains. There are piles of logs everywhere.  

Virtually every Monterey Pine on Kelly Fosters property is being cut down. Some are falling on their own and that’s scary, he says.

“The first week after the fire, we heard a big pine come down about once an hour for several weeks, and sometimes you’d hear the crack and then boom, and sometimes you just hear the crack, and that’s the scarier situation,” Foster said.

Tall pine, firs and redwoods lean over the winding road in many places. They must go first.   

45 miles of roadway are impacted and there are thousands more damaged trees on private property across 85,000 acres scorched by the lightning-sparked fire that erupted on August 19th.

“A lot of these trees are just shells of themselves, is what they were prior to the fire incident, yeah so we are proactively going in and assessing what kind of shape these trees are in and if they’re deemed dangerous, we’re taking them down,” Wiesner said. 

As if the loss of those trees was enough, there are worries about what could happen when the rains return with little or nothing to guard against erosion and the prospect of one disaster on top of another.

“What I’m most worried about is the mud and debris flow that’s projected this winter. I joke with friends, can we please get a quarter-inch of rain every other night all winter long, but we know that’s not going to happen, we know we’re going to get some gully washers, pretty scary to think what’s going to flow with all the organics completely burned off and very little vegetation on the ground to modify the runoff,” Foster said. 

When the tree crews move out, the erosion control mitigation crews will move in. This work is expected to go on for a month and it will cost the county millions of dollars.

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