Fire officials still concerned about dying trees: Emergency warning system operational

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Still in the middle of fire season, local fire officials were able to hold their quarterly Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting last week; however, they moved through the agenda quickly.

No reports or issues regarding local fires were presented. But Cal Fire Battalion Chief Greg Bratcher emphasized concern about the gold spotted oak borer infestation of local oak trees and pines continuing to die from the drought and bark beetle.

Southern California Edison reported that its contractors were removing about 65 to 70 trees per month. But these all presented threats to SCE’s power lines, and were not necessarily any oaks that had been damaged by the GSOB.

Bratcher added that the number of oak trees with GSOB infestation had now crossed the century mark.

GSOB-infested tree near Chevron station, Idyllwild.

GSOB-infested tree near Chevron station, Idyllwild.

If local residents or property owners are worried about their oaks, the GSOB hotline is 951-659-8328. The Mountain Community Fire Safe Council will have the trees inspected for possible infestation.

Kayanna Warren, forester on the San Jacinto Ranger District, said, “We’ve found a few more trees over the summer.” She also encouraged neighbors of the forest to alert the District Ranger’s office if they believe some oaks have been infested.

Edwina Scott, the MCFSC’s executive director, said they are beginning to recruit additional GSOB inspectors. “We hope to have two teams. And we encourage volunteers even if they only can give a one year commitment.”

Roland Gaebert, vice president of the Mile High Radio club, reported that the group is upgrading its transmitter and improving antennae to increase the range for WNKI, the local emergency radio station. The goal remains to cover the area from southern Garner Valley to Poppet Flats in the north.

During the agency portion, Bratcher reported that Cal Fire has some piles to burn near the Stone Creek fuels reduction area and emphasized that a good rainfall will be needed before this projected is begun.

And Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz reported that the district had discovered several illegal burns within the district. “They thought because it was cold in the evenings it was safe to burn,” he said.

The final agency report was from Jerry Hagen of the County’s Emergency Management Division, who shared that the new Early Warning Notification System contract had been awarded and implemented.

He urged residents who have not already registered a phone number to receive emergency calls to go to the website, www.rivcoready.org/EWNS, and register a home phone or cell phone.

“If you signed up with the old system, you’re already in the system unless you have a new phone or number,” he stated.

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