Backed by local fire agencies, campus moves to reduce fire risks in Panoramic Hill area

  fire hazard treatment area
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30 AUGUST 00 | Aiming to avert a repeat of the deadly 1991 Oakland Hills fire, campus officials and area fire agencies are launching an extensive fire prevention effort to protect homes and hillsides in the Panoramic Hill area above the campus.

The $400,000 project is funded by the campus, the state Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On September 5, work crews are scheduled to thin trees and remove overgrown brush in the Panoramic Hill area, reducing the risk of wildfires and providing firefighters with the open space needed to set up trucks and battle any wildland fires that should occur.

In all, crews will fell 840 of the approximately 2,400 trees in the area and prune tree trunks - steps that will lessen the risk of fire climbing up trees and allowing burning embers to fall from treetops to homes in neighborhoods below in the Panoramic Hill area and Elmwood district.

The board of directors of the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents neighbors in that area, endorsed the fire prevention project.

"Disastrous wildfires moved into Berkeley in 1923, 1970, 1984, and 1991," said resident Dick White. "We clearly need buffer zones where approaching wildfires can be fought. As a resident of Panoramic Hill, where our houses adjoin Strawberry Canyon, I'm delighted to see the start of this university-FEMA project."

The 30-acre Panoramic Hill area is considered high-risk not only because of the type of trees there. Wind and geographic conditions there can produce a setting ripe for wildfires, according to Jim Horner, the project manager and campus landscape architect.

The Panoramic Hill project will be completed in three phases, with 540 trees felled during the first phase, scheduled to begin September 5 and conclude by October 15. Later phases will begin in the spring or summer with the project completed by fall 2001.

For safety reasons, the project will entail the closure of the Lower Jordan Fire Trail and the parking area at the intersection of that trail and Centennial Drive. Felled trees will be donated to Protect All Life, a nonprofit organization based in Half Moon Bay that recycles lumber for artistic projects.



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