Over 20 days ago, PG&E announced an "Updated Expanded Debris Removal Program".  Today, it continues to tout the program.  It has prepared a mailing to go out today for all of its affected customers.  PG&E set a December 31st deadline to opt in.  

To participate,  PG&E requires the property owner to submit a debris removal authorization form. But that form doesn’t seem to exist.  It has not been shown to the attorneys and it is not part of the PG&E mailing. 

If you haven’t heard, here are the details of the program:

Does your tree qualify for free removal?

According to PG&E it must meet one or more of the criteria below:
 
  • Wood greater than 4 inch in diameter and 6 feet in length
  • Within 100 feet of a structure or foundation
  • Within 20 feet of main roads, driveways and private roads
  • Where reasonably accessible by equipment/machinery
  • If logs are unstable along steep banks and may block a watercourse or roadway
 
Your options for removal, if your tree(s) qualify:
 
  • Move, cut up or pile wood and leave on your property
  • Chip and broadcast wood on site where accessible
  • Haul donated wood away offsite
If you qualify and you are represented by an attorney, you should contact your attorney about the program.
 
Time will tell whether this is anything more than another PG&E public relations campaign.
 

Property owners asked the Judicial Council to coordinate the pre-trial handling of their cases.  In response, the Chief Justice recently asked Calaveras County Presiding Judge to handle the matter. The Calaveras County presiding judge, the Honorable Grant Barrett, will consider the request and make a recommendation to the Chief Justice on the most appropriate site for the Butte Fire coordinated proceeding. Will he keep it in Calaveras or send it to another County?  

 

On November 25, PG&E announced further tree cutting work.  From November 28-December 12, PG&E will send ACRT, Inc.to pre-inspect and repatrol these areas.

Mokelumne Hill:

Jesus Maria Rd
Ponderosa Way
Worden Rd
Hwy 26

Mountain Ranch:
Whiskey Slide

East Murray Creek

Avenue A
Mountain Ranch Rd
Railroad Flat Rd

Sheep Ranch:

Railroad Flat Rd

PG&E’s tree cutting schedule from November 28- December 12 will include these areas.

Mokelumne Hill:

Jesus Maria Rd
Baker Riley Rd
Old Gambetta Rd
Doster Rd
East Murray Creek
Old Greek Mine Rd
Buttondown Lane
Rainbow Rd
Upper Dorray Rd.
Lower Dorray Rd
Electra Rd
Flat Gulch Rd
Lower Gulch Rd
Diamond Lane
Old Gambetta Trl
Ponderosa Wy
Hwy 26
Sierra Oaks Lane

Mountain Ranch:

RailRoad Flat Rd
El Dorado Trl
Sierra Vista Way
West murray Creek
East Murray Cree
Whiskey Slide
Green Ranch Rd
Pine Ridge Rd
Struckman Rd
Emigrant Ct
Avenue A
3 Mile Ln
Rodesino Rd
Carabaldi St
Washington St
Old Emigrant Trail W
Hwy 26
Cedar Way
Spring Lake Rd
Cilenti Ranch Rd
Loma Serena Rd
Swiss Ranch Rd
Worden Rd
Francine Ct
44 Ranch Rd
Ponderosa Wy
Storey Rd
Wendell Rd
Hidden Valley Rd
Sheep Ranch Rd

Sheep Ranch:

Eagleview Dr
Cave City Rd
Sun Rd
Ham Luddy Rd
Skyview Ct
Lakeside Dr
Sugar Pine Rd
Eagleview Dr
Live Oak Lane
Oakridge Rd
Calaveras Rd 

Railroad Flat Rd
Hidden Valley Rd
Sheep Ranch Rd

Was PG&E’s cost-cutting a cause of the Butte Fire? Did PG&E use money that was supposed to be used for tree trimming and pay it out as profit to its executives? The attorneys for the Butte Fire victims have been looking into those questions from the outset of the Butte Fire investigation.   

Now State Senator Jerry Hill is asking the same questions.  He called PG&E into a meeting in SanButte Fire Lawsuits Francisco to find out.  Hill is someone who knows a bit about PG&E’s history.

PG&E, in 1994, diverted $77 million from what was supposed to go to repair and maintenance of their electrical lines. They diverted it to corporate profits, to shareholder profits; just as they did in the gas system with hundreds of millions of dollars.”

This is the sort of thing that the California Public Utilities Commission is supposed to prevent.  But according to Hill, the CPUC has been unsuccessful in formulating vegetation management rules to prevent wildfires.  So Hill is getting involved in the issue himself.

Jerry Hill represents San Bruno, the community where a PG&E fire killed 8 and destroyed 47 homes in 2010.

              

PG&E has released a schedule for re-Inspection of Butte Fire properties and for further tree removal.  Unfortunately the timeline for the work is so broad as to be useless as a planning tool for residents.  

Butte fire

At seemingly arbitrary times and at the whim of the contractors over the next 10 days, PG&E may show up on victims’ properties per the schedule below:

 

 

PG&E will be re-inspecting trees in the following areas:

   
Jesus Maria Rd Mokelumne Hill
Ponderosa Way Mokelumne Hill
Upper Dorray Rd Mountain Ranch
Worden Rd Mokelumne Hill
Hwy 26 Mokelumne Hill
Electra Rd Mokelumne Hill
Whiskey Slide Mountain Ranch
East Murray Creek Mountain Ranch
Doster Rd Mountain Ranch
Green Ranch Rd Mountain Ranch
Railroad Flat Rd Mountain Ranch/ Sheep Ranch
Fricot City Rd Sheep Ranch
Hidden Valley Rd Mountain Ranch/ Sheep Ranch
Old Gulch Rd Mountain Ranch

 

PG&E will be removing trees in the following areas: 

 

Jesus Maria Rd Mokelumne Hill
Baker Riley Rd Mokelumne Hill
Old Gambetta Rd Mokelumne Hill
Creations Way Mokelumne Hill
Potteroff Rd Mokelumne Hill
Doster Rd Mokelumne Hill
East Murray Creek Mokelumne Hill
Old Greek Mine Rd Mokelumne Hill
Shine Way Mokelumne Hill
Buttondown Lane Mokelumne Hill
Rainbow Rd Mokelumne Hill
West murray Creek Mountain Ranch
East Murray Creek Mountain Ranch
 Whiskey Slide Mountain Ranch
Green Ranch Rd Mountain Ranch
Old Emigrant Trail W Mountain Ranch
Hwy 26 Mountain Ranch
Fricot City Rd Sheep Ranch
Hidden Valley Rd Sheep Ranch/ Mountain Ranch
Rich Gulch Rd Mountain Ranch
Railroad Flat rd Mountain Ranch/ Sheep Ranch
Cedar Way Mountain Ranch
Eagleview Dr Moutain Ranch
Jesus Maria Rd Mokelumne Hill
Lower Dorray Rd Mokelumne Hill
Electra Rd Mokelumne Hill
Railroad Flat Mountain Ranch
Sheep Ranch Rd Sheep Ranch/ Mountain Ranch
Sun Rd Sheep Ranch
Ham Luddy Rd Sheep Ranch
Skyview Ct Sheep Ranch
Jesus Maria Rd Mokelumne Hill
Old Gambetta Trl Mokelumne Hill
Worden Rd Mountain Ranch
Ponderosa Wy Mokelumne Hill
Hwy 26 Mokelumne Hill
Francine Ct Mountain Ranch
44 Ranch Rd Mountain Ranch
Ponderosa Wy Mountain Ranch
Whiskey Slide Rd Mountain Ranch
 Ponderosa Way Mountain Ranch
Storey Rd Mountain Ranch
Green Hills Rd Mountain Ranch
   

 

 

In response to landowner complaints, PG&E has agreed to remove all woody debris that is "reasonably accessible" and is:

greater than 4 inches in diameter and 6 feet or greater in length; and

within 100 feet of a structure or foundation or within 20 feet of main roads, driveways and private roads; or

·     on a steep banks with a potential target of waterways or roadways. 

PG&E will not compensate the landowners for the timber it removes and it may take up to three months to do the work.

And what is "reasonably accessible"? What does PG&E plan to do with all of the timber?  

While many landowners may agree this is a waste of time, or too little too late; some may want to take advantage of the program.  If so, the participation deadline: December 31, 2015.

Owen Goldsmith was 82.  He had lived in Calaveras for more than 30 years. When the Butte fire threatened his home, he decided to stay and fight it.  Butte Fire Death Lawsuit 

On Tuesday, our Butte Fire legal team filed a wrongful death suit against PG&E in San Francisco on behalf of Goldsmith’s family.  His daughter spoke to the press:

No one should have to go through what I imagine he went through. . . . It was so difficult to see that he died in his refuge."

Our lead lawyer on the case, Amanda Riddle, explained to NBCBay Area News, regardless of whether the 82 year-old was told to evacuate, it’s still on PG&E.

PG&E bears the ultimate responsibility. They put him in a situation where he felt that he had no escape."

 

Wrongful Death Complaint – Mathes v PGE – Filed

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/287594404/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

The Butte Fire burned properties at elevations from about 1,000 to 3,000 feet. The trees growing in those elevations of the Sierra Nevada foothills include Interior Live Oaks, Blue Oaks, Black Oaks, Douglas Fir, Sierra Lodgepole Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, and others.

Most people value the beauty trees bring to their area. An owner of a home in the foothills prefers a view of forested hillsides to a view of barren, burned hillsides. But putting a value on the loss of the trees can be difficult.

Three different methods are typically used for valuing a tree:

  1. the decrease the loss of the tree causes to the real estate’s market value,
  2. the CTLA formula method, and
  3. the tree’s replacement cost.

If someone else caused the loss of the trees on your property, they will likely argue for the first method, particularly in rural areas. This approach minimizes the amount they would pay because most of the value of rural real estate is in the structures and land, not the trees.

But the law generally requires a person responsible for a tree’s destruction to pay the cost of replacing the tree with one of same kind and size.  The replacement cost of a mature trees will likely be much higher than the decrease the loss of the tree causes to the home’s market value.

For example, consider a home with three bedrooms located on 40 forested acres valued at $400,000. If a fire burns all of the trees but spares the home, the property’s market value will certainly drop.  But a large portion of the value may remain in the house and the land. Imagine the property is now valued at only $300,000 because of the destroyed trees. The person who caused the fire may offer to pay the homeowner $100,000, the reduced value of the real estate.

The law, however, says that the one who caused the fire is responsible for restoring the homeowner’s property to the condition it was in before the fire. That means the homeowner is entitled to be paid the cost of replacing the trees destroyed. Replacement in this instance does not mean with new saplings but with trees of a similar size as what were destroyed.

What does it cost to replace mature trees? It depends on the size of the tree, the type of tree, and the difficulty in transplanting the tree. A 50 foot oak tree will cost more to replace than a 10 foot pine. Determining the type and size of the trees is essential in calculating the replacement costs.  But in almost all cases, the cost of replacing the trees will be more than the decrease in the home’s market value as a result of the tree’s destruction.

Some trees can survive a wildfire and even thrive. But many trees can be severely damaged or killed by wildfire. For property owners, it can be difficult to tell if trees have been killed by a fire or merely singed. The length of exposure and the intensity of the fire are big factors in the amount of damageCambium done to a tree during a fire. Additionally, the more stressed the tree was before the fire, whether from drought, disease, or insects, the more susceptible a tree is during a wildfire.

As a wildfire burns, a tree can be damaged in several ways.  The injury can vary from leaves or needles being burned off to root damage. For trees, any fire damage that impacts its ability to pull moisture from the soil is going to cause more severe damage or death.

If 50% or more of the bark has been completely burned off around the circumference of the trunk, then the tree has likely been killed. Some trees with extermely thick bark, like sequoias, may be able to survive even when more than 50% of the bark has been burned.

If a tree has been burned but a substantial portion of its bark remains, then you can check to determine whether the tree is still alive by cutting a small hole about the size of quarter through the bark. If there is a white or green moist cambial layer just beneath the bark, then the tree has a good chance of surviving. However, if the fire burned into part of the trunk, then the tree will likely be unstable and a hazard even if it does survive.

Evergreen trees that have less than 10% green needles or with less than 50% live buds remaining will likely not survive. Non-evergreens may survive even if most of the leaves have been burned off.

Even if a tree does survive the immediate fire, the damage it has suffered will make it more vulnerable to suffer attack from bark beetles and other insects that could ultimately kill it.