Beautiful scenery has long been a source of pride for Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch, and the surrounding communities. The eucalyptus forests, tree-lined streets, manicured lawns, and landscaped flower beds create a rural, peaceful setting for those living in the area.
Unfortunately, some of this vegetation has gone from being decorative to becoming a potential fire hazard. Over the last few years, the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District (RSFFPD) has seen an increase in the amount of tree mortality, which has been brought on by prolonged drought, insect infestation, disease, and lack of maintenance. These changes have led to an increased fire hazard within the Fire District boundaries.
In an effort to protect lives and property, the RSFFPD is working with the Rancho Santa Fe Association and local homeowners to eliminate hazardous trees within the district and bring properties within compliance of existing fire codes.
“We are absolutely not looking to remove all of the trees in the area,” explained Conor Lenehan, Urban Forester for RSFFPD. “Rather, we are targeting only those trees that are clearly diseased. We are also encouraging homeowners to clean up and maintain any undergrowth and ladder fuels. This will help minimize the fire hazard in the community and beautify the landscape. “
“Our number one priority is the preservation of the historic community character while maintaining a safe and sustainable environment for the residents,” added Arnold Keene, field operations manager for the Rancho Santa Fe Association. “Over the last decade our workload has shifted substantially to removal and thinning of trees and plants due to drought conditions and insect infestation throughout the region with a renewed focus on the reduction of potential fire fuel in dense roadside landscaping and in the many open space areas throughout the Covenant. The RSFFPD and the RSF Association have worked closely to accomplish a fire safe community and will continue to work hard toward this common goal.”
Following increased inspections throughout the district, property owners with diseased trees on their land will be notified via mail that the afflicted trees should be removed. Additionally, property owners with trees that have debris such as peeling bark or dead limbs hanging from them will receive a notice to clean up the trees, thereby reducing the fire hazard. The district will first be looking to address those diseased trees that are in close proximity to structures and roadways, and then, where needed, move on to trees further away. Resources such as potential tree removal companies and replacement tree suggestions will be offered.
Many homeowners within the Fire District have already received notice and begun the tree removal process. Herb and Joan Holmquist recently removed over 200 diseased trees from their 4-acre property.
“We had started removing some of the trees on our property already,” said Herb Holmquist. “The letter helped us realize just how much needed to be done. We ended up having to take out a lot of trees, but some we were able to just cut the top off for now with that hope that it will grow back healthy. We’re also planning on adding a few new trees.” Added Joan Holmquist, “We still have a bit more clean up to do, but we are both very happy we did this. It looks better and we feel safer.”
Not every property requires the removal of so many trees, however. Charles Richmond, who lives on La Glorieta, also received a notice to abate the hazards on his property. He scheduled an appointment with Lenehan, who walked the 2.87-acre property with him to help identify which trees should be removed. Richmond has since removed six trees and plans to remove seven or eight more. He will be replacing them with a different species of tree.
“I hate to see them go, but it’s necessary,” Richmond said. “The dead trees do not look good and they’re a fire hazard. The situation is really scary and I hate to think about what would happen if a fire started in the Covenant, so I am more than happy to do my part.”
The Fire District will continue making inspections and working with property owners to abate the diseased trees and other hazards.
“We know this is a large undertaking and appreciate the community’s cooperation as we strive to minimize potential fire hazards within the district,” said Lenehan.
For more information regarding tree removal and vegetation management, or if you have questions or concerns regarding a property, please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 858-756-5971. More wildfire prevention tips are available on our web site at www.rsf-fire.org.