Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has trimmed or cut down more than 30,000 damaged trees in 13 Northern and Central California counties, nearly completing a post-fire campaign to remove scorched trees that posed a threat to the utility’s power lines.
The effort is 99 percent complete in Sonoma and Napa counties, where contract tree-cutting crews dealt with about 10,500 and 13,400 trees, respectively, said Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman.
The only work remaining in Sonoma County, where the October wildfires covered 137 square miles, is related to trees near temporary overhead power lines being erected in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park and Hidden Valley neighborhoods, she said.
In Mendocino County, about 4,400 trees were trimmed or felled, with about 130 in Lake County.
Overall, the work is about 96 percent complete, Contreras said, but affected landowners may still ask PG&E to cut down and remove burned wood from their property at no cost.
Those trees must be easily accessible by equipment, larger than 4 inches in diameter and 6 feet long and within 50 feet of a permanent structure or likely to roll into roads, drainage structures or waterways.
Landowners have until Feb. 28 to take advantage of PG&E’s “opt-in” program by calling 800-743-5000.
Trees felled at PG&E’s initiative will be cut into manageable pieces or chipped and left on the owner’s property because the wood is considered a private asset, Contreras said.
State law requires removal of diseased or dying trees that could contact power lines, and PG&E holds easements allowing it access to lines that run across private property, Contreras said.
Work on private property can cause consternation for some landowners, and Contreras said PG&E makes an effort to contact them ahead of time but is not required to gain permission.
The tree-clearing effort also covers Marin, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Solano, Yolo, Butte, Calaveras, Nevada and Yuba counties.
Prior to the start of the campaign in November, PG&E dispatched arborists and foresters to assess the health of fire-damaged trees, marking them with bright green spray.
The utility, which serves about 16 million people from Eureka to Bakersfield, has been faulted in multiple lawsuits alleging poorly maintained power lines were responsible for the October wildfires. State investigations into the fires’ causes are ongoing.
The post-fire tree clearing augments PG&E’s vegetation management program, which involves annual inspections of about 100,000 miles of overhead lines and pruning or removal of about 1.4 million trees a year.
There are more than 3,000 miles of overhead power lines in PG&E’s Sonoma Division, which includes all of the county and a few hamlets in northern Marin.