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Sonoma County Gazette
Timber Cover Fire Protection District

OPEN LETTER to Timber Cove Community about Fire Risk by Tim McKusick

Nov 10, 2018
by Tim McKusick

I urge everyone in the Timber Cove Community to inspect the power lines in our neighborhood. Years ago I insisted that PG&E sleeve the bare lines over Pine Court with a protective insulation. I am glad I did, as the pines and firs nearby drop branches on a regular basis.
A branch on an insulated line is not a problem. A branch across the bare conductors is a direct short circuit, causing the wire to burn-through and drop, igniting anything nearby.
I must alert the population of the uninsulated, bare high voltage overhead power lines that cross Highway One at the South entrance to Lee Drive. These bare power lines run up through the forest to the lines on Timber Cove Road. 
The South entrance of Lee Drive is at the foot of an un-named creek canyon that cuts up through the heart of our subdivision. A fire starting here would flash through the neighborhood before an alarm could be sounded. It is also the location of a bad turn in narrow, busy Highway 1, where accidents have happened in the past.
I ask each and everyone who is concerned about a fire event here in Timber Cove to stand at the South entrance of Lee Drive and look uphill. The entire right side of the narrow, uphill road is lined with a solid mass of dead and dying vegetation and trees, crowding the single traffic lane. All of the way up the hill; about halfway up the hill, the dead trees form an arc over the roadway, joining with equally dead trees on the other side of the street. 
In a fire event, it would be impassable; Residents of Lee Drive could not escape, and emergency responders would not be able to reach them. This wall of dead trees, mostly oaks under the dying pines, smothers the creek canyon that parallels Lee uphill. The dead forest, thick from the ground to the crowns of the trees with tinder-dry ladder fuels extends to the south directly over to, and beyond, the Bare Uninsulated High Voltage PG&E Power Lines and on to Busy Highway One. 
Lee Drive South entrance off Hwy 1
The dead forest continues uphill along the creek canyon between Smith Court, Lee Drive, Umland Circle, and Rust Drive. This is the worst build-up of ladder fuels of such a concentration, in such a vulnerable area of homes and families. The potential for loss of life and property is very real.
To get an idea of the vast swath of dead fuels compiled in this creek canyon, go over to Smith Ct, off of Timber Cove Road. 
Smith Court, Timber Cover Road
While driving from Lee to Smith, go slowly along Highway 1 and observe the obvious brown, solid wall of dead vegetation crowding up under the dying Pine trees, pause and try to look up the PG&E power line easement. Although some re-clearing of the actual easement has recently taken place, the dying spindly pine trees looming over the bare power lines, leaning in from the private properties adjacent, are a ticking time bomb. 
A pine tree (notoriously shallow-rooted) out of the PG&E easement, but within striking distance of the bare lines will be the match that lights the fuse. The properties surrounding the PG&E easement are in a terrible state of overgrowth & ladder fuels, with an abundance of pine trees at the end of their life cycle, drought-stressed and tinder-dry.
Once you get over to Smith Court, go to the bottom of the cul-de-sac and walk out towards the ocean. (Note the signs spiked to the trees, you are on the Trail Easement). Looking downhill, you are on the other side of the creek canyon from Lee Drive, and uphill from the power lines. Notice the dead tanbark oaks, everywhere, with no evidence that anyone has even tried to abate even some of the fire danger.
Here is the problem: Until recently, the Timber Cove Fire Safe Policies would have overseen a methodical inspection and follow-up with the property owners to have the problem abated. That plan has been replaced with a plan where the TCCWD/TCHA report a property to the County Emergency Fire Services and the County cites the property owner. 
There is one big difference between the Timber Cove Fire Safe Policies and the County Ordinance: The County Ordinance only covers the 10' (TEN FOOT) roadside buffer. That is it. The County does not go beyond the area immediately along the road. 
These property owners who are sitting on the single most dangerous build-up of fire fuels in an inhabited neighborhood are not in any violation. And do not have to clean up a thing, except for a "mow and blow" along the road. They save themselves thousands of dollars they would have to spend to do some true fire abatement. The residents of Lee Drive that would be trapped when the dead trees over the road ignite.
People in charge are playing games and politics while refusing to acknowledge that a very real danger exists. And that the danger is on their own properties. 
I am saddened and outraged at once. We need to get beyond this Soap Opera at the Coast that has been playing these last dozen years and stand together against this climate monster. The trees within striking distance of the high voltage lines MUST be removed…NOW. 
As to the giant step backwards, the elected Timber Cove Leaders have taken by shelving our Fire Safe Timber Cove Plan and replacing it with a plan that does not address our urban-wildland interface issues, shame on you.
Sincerely, Tim McKusick
VIDEOS of areas at risk:


This is a very informative video for folks living with a fire threat on the coast.


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