For the last decade or so various agencies have used the risk of wildfire as their rationale for removing 3 species of trees in the east bay hills. The argument has been that if we just remove these 3 species that the hills will be far safer.
Often cited in the justification for these projects is the ongoing and deteriorating situation for homeowners to obtain fire insurance for houses in the woodland urban interface. The proponents of removing these 3 species have assured us that removing these trees would not only make the area safer, but also that as a result of this decreased level of risk, it would be easier and cheaper to obtain insurance.
The facts, however, don’t support this assertion. To date the evidence suggests that, despite the removal of 10s of thousands of trees in the last decade, the insurers are not at all convinced that the area has become less of a fire risk. Quite the opposite. All one has to do is to consider recent investigative pieces that make it very clear that the insurance situation hasn’t improved in the last 10 years, it’s gotten worse.
Are insurers irrational? Do they have an incentive to turn down premium payments from potential customers? No. They are rational.
They have seen, as we all have, where the fires have been in California in the past decade. There have been virtually no fires involving the 3 species so despised by those who have used the fear of fire to fund their removal. In fact virtually all the significant fires that have so alarmed the insurers have occurred in areas of oak and grass and brush regimes. Redding, Paradise, Napa, Los Angeles, Malibu….all of these fires happened in exactly the vegetation regime that the agencies in the east bay are spending millions of dollars to replicate.
Most homeowners in the hills just want to live their lives without fear of fire. But the fact is that the policies that have been promoted by the native plant restoration community and implemented by local agencies have had the effect of increasing rather than decreasing this risk.
Hills Conservation Network has always advocated maintaining a closed canopy of tall trees that would prevent the growth of brush, grass, and other flammable plants that act as ladder fuels when they are ignited. Whether these trees and plants are native or not does not matter. Fire safety is more important than nativist agendas.