VIDEO: Crews cleaning up fire-prone eucalyptus trees in the East Bay hills

 

BERKELEY HILLS (KRON) — Since the fire in 1991, there has been an ongoing effort in the East Bay hills to keep small fires from becoming big ones.

One of the main goals has been to clean up and manage many of the fire-prone, non-native eucalyptus trees that are spread across the East Bay.

“The conditions are very dry because we have had some hot summer days,” East Bay Regional Parks Interim Fire Chief John Swanson said.

KRON4 drove along Grizzly Peak Boulevard Thursday afternoon and Swanson pointed out some of the spots where regional parks has been working to trim back brush and clean up fire prone eucalyptus trees.

“What we did was thin the forest out, remove the smaller diameter trees, leave the larger diameter trees well-spaced, and reduce the amount of fuels on the forest floor,” Swanson said.

The goal is to keep a wildfire from climbing up the trees and reaching the canopy.

“When the crowns torch, burning embers are cast up high above the trees for hundreds of feet, and the wind then lofts them downwind to start fires well ahead of where the original fire is burning.”

But even though this kind of cleanup work has been happening in the East Bay hills for decades, Swanson points out that they will never be able to prevent all wildfires.

But that’s not the point.

“We are not trying to prevent fires, we are trying to prevent disasters,” Swanson said. “There are going to be fires in this area. This is a Mediterranean environment. One of the natural elements of a Mediterranean environment is fire. Frequent fires.”

“It’s when the fires get so intense that they generate the kinds of life threatening behavior that we’ve seen in the past. Those are the disasters we are trying to prevent. Loss of property (and) loss of life,” Swanson added.

Swanson also says that Wednesday’s fire along Grizzly Peak actually burned through a eucalyptus grove.

But that area had been cleaned up by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and that probably helped keep the fire from getting out of control.

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