With the addition of two extra Cal Fire engines on the Hill, another mountain battalion chief will be hired, announced Riverside County Division Chief David Fulcher at last week’s Mountain Area Safety Taskforce meeting.

The second battalion chief will start after July 1 and share responsibilities with current Mountain Battalion Chief Sean Dakin.

In other business, Cal Fire Mountain Forester Gregg Bratcher said 32 oak trees have been confirmed with Goldspotted oak borer infestations. His office and the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council are still inspecting oak trees.

If a property owner suspects an oak tree may be infected, they should first visit the University of California, Riverside’s GSOB site, http://ucanr.edu/sites/gsobinfo/. Then call Cal Fire’s GSOB hotline at 951-659-8328.

“We’ve yet to have anyone on the mountain take advantage of spraying or other proactive options,” Bratcher lamented. “We may have options for eradication, tools in the toolbox, that are not being used.”

Finding and removing oak trees with exit holes is not prevention, he stressed. “Finding the bug is not eradicating the problem today.”

Edwina Scott, MCFSC executive director, reported on the progress of MCFSC’s reroofing project. Through this spring, 46 cedar-shake shingle roofs have been replaced with fire-resistant shingles. “Another 15 properties have received permission to hire a roofing contractor,” she added.

With the presence of a year-round fire season, very few fuels projects have been started or completed on the Hill, according to the various fire officials.

“There’s been very little pile burning. It’s not a good season for burning,” noted Dan Felix, San Jacinto Ranger District fire chief. “We had hoped to do a broadcast burn in Garner Valley; no plans until next fire season.”

However, the Forest Service will do maintenance along the Pine Cove and Strawberry fuelbreaks with the help of the Green Corps.

Cal Fire is working along the Red Hill Truck Trail, reported Bratcher.

And Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said the department has been aggressively conducting fire abatement inspections. “We’re 30 days ahead of schedule,” he said.