In a sparsely attended meeting, the Mountain Area Safety Taskforce focused on the arrival of the Goldspotted oak borer on the Hill. The discussion addressed future actions, such as a census and mapping of the most vulnerable oak trees as well as potential protective actions and procedures for destroying infected trees.

Riverside County Fire Department officials have met with 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, his staff and the county agricultural commissioner about possible legislative and enforcement actions, according to Dave Fulcher, Bautista Division chief.

“They are very supportive and getting involved,” Fulcher reported. “We may actively pursue legislation.”

The issues which county officials are beginning to address range from combating the virulent pest to dealing with the results of its damage. Fulcher identified specific issues that are being discussed, such as how to transport dead or dying trees, marking trees that are infected, storage areas for those trees once cut and sectioned and prior to grinding, warning or alert signs on local highways, and possible pesticides and their use and efficacy.

Dave Simmons, the Southern California Edison contact for the bark beetle and now for GSOB issues, confirmed that they Southern California Edison found one of the trees and will continue to treat them as they have the dead and dying pines — removing them at no cost to homeowners if the trees threatened SCE power lines.

However, Fulcher and Simmons stressed that SCE’s participation depended upon the governor continuing to maintain the bark beetle emergency declaration. As long as the state’s emergency proclamation is in force, the state’s public utilities commission can support and authorize SCE’s expenditures to remove these trees.

Fulcher affirmed that CAL FIRE views the Goldspotted oak borer as a threat to the community, not simply to individual trees along the highways. So far, identification of the insect has been limited to six trees along the highway and one near the village center. All are on private property.

The Goldspotted oak borer investigative team is concentrating on oaks within the village. Tom Scott, University of California Riverside GSOB expert, estimates that 2,500 Idyllwild trees may be vulnerable. But this estimate does not include any oaks on state or federal lands.

However he stressed that the task force was proceeding cautiously in order not to needlessly alarm residents.

And Chic Fojtik, the Mountain Disaster Preparedness representative and a Garden Club member, announced that the Idyllwild Garden Club was planning on setting up signs at the bottom of the Hill in Hemet and Banning to discourage people from importing firewood to Hill locales.

The timeline of the discovery of beetle’s presence is very short and expanding, said Mic Sebastian, CAL FIRE. The first identification was made in early November. By January, another positive identification was made and the third within two more weeks. By early February, four more infested trees had been identified.

In other local forest business, Fire Safe Council Executive Director Edwina Scott reported on the meeting with Federal Emergency Management Administration officials and progress toward final approval of a grant to help residents replace cedar roofing with asbestos shingles.

Hotline for questions regarding the Goldspotted oak borer
(951) 659-8328