Congresswoman Lois Capps is scheduled to visit Cambria today for a firsthand look at the community’s drought-stricken pine forest.
We’re glad to hear it. The fire danger posed by thousands of dead and dying trees is extreme, and it should be on the radar of officials at every level.
Much has been accomplished: For example, funding has been secured to remove 190 dead or dying pines on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, and grants for additional tree removal are in the works. But the ailing forest still poses a huge fire threat.
County Fire Chief Rob Lewin conservatively estimates that 20,000 dead and dying trees need to be removed. That’s not only a big expense — it costs in the neighborhood of $1,200 to take out a single tree — it also creates a huge logistical challenge.
“What do you do with 20,000 dead trees?” Lewin asked.
And those 20,000 trees won’t be the end of it.
“Trees are still dying,” Lewin said. “This isn’t over yet.”
Yes, it’s overwhelming, and we certainly don’t expect today’s meeting — Capps will be briefed by officials from the county and Cambria — to result in immediate answers.
We do, though, urge Capps to work on securing whatever federal relief may be available to Cambrians, be it in the form of drought relief, Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for disaster prevention work or some other source.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to repeat it: It makes far more sense to allocate resources to fire prevention — which in this case means removing dead and dying trees — than to offer assistance after a catastrophic fire sweeps through Cambria.