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Concern raised at board meeting about fire risk of dead, dying trees in Rancho Santa Fe

By Karen Billing

At the May 1 RSF Association board meeting, resident Lisa Mallet expressed concerns about dead and dying trees in Rancho Santa Fe. As she walks her five-mile loops around the west side of the Covenant, she said she is seeing dead trees, shrubbery and undergrowth.

“I am shocked and scared, especially in this weather, at the sheer numbers of dead growth everywhere,” Mallet said. “It seems to me a very apolitical issue and it’s in everybody’s interest and it should be a top priority. With the temperatures rising and rainfall declining, that makes us very vulnerable to fire.”

“It seems we have the money to buy another building (the Garden Club) but it makes no sense if the whole thing is going to go up in flames,” Mallet said.

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While Mallet estimates she has personally spent more than $25,000 over the last 10 years clearing the trees on her property, her neighbor has  two acres of dead eucalyptus trees, some of which are 30 feet from her propane tank. She said no matter how many preventative measures she takes, her home remains vulnerable to fire because of surrounding properties.

She suggested a pool of money could be set aside to assist homeowners that might not be able to afford cutting trees or vegetation.

Director Ann Boon said that the Committee On the Natural Environment (CONE) has been discussing that very issue as many others share Mallet’s concerns.

Additionally, the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District (RSFFPD) employs a hazard abatement inspector who surveys properties for fire hazards and mails notices to property owners in violation of the district fire ordinance.

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“We are currently in the process of sending letters out to all residents within the RSFFPD service area reminding them of the local hazard abatement requirements,” the district said in a recent release.

The district has some ways to safeguard not only individual homes, but the entire community on its website at rsf-fire.org. The safeguards include the recommended “defensible space”— a 100-foot buffer zone around all structures and a 20-foot zone along the side of roadways and driveways.  For any questions regarding vegetation management, contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at (858) 756-5971.


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