Sonora, CA — Wrangling with drought and bark beetle-impacted trees? Hotline operators are now standing by to assist.
This week Tuolumne County administrators confirm that a team of Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) volunteers will be providing phone support by answering the increasing volume of incoming queries from residents struggling to find current information and resources to deal with tree mortality issues on the rise throughout the region.
As County OES Coordinator Tracie Riggs explains, “This is important because there are a lot of phone calls coming in that sometimes don’t get answered right away, due to the fact that the staff and the office are working on a lot of different other projects.” Riggs stresses, “RACES will be live people, taking phone calls, answering questions. They have information that has been given to them, much like what happened during the Rim Fire.”
A Few Quick FAQ
The team will be able to field queries and concerns on a host of currently relevant issues. Examples are as Riggs explains, “Like what is the county doing to address the tree mortality emergency? How can I get help with the dead tree that is near power lines – we can give them the phone number for PG&E and a contact.” Continuing, she covers another popular query, “Why do I have to sign a right-of-entry form for Tuolumne County, Caltrans or TUD — and if I don’t sign it, what will happen? All of those types of questions can be answered in a much quicker fashion than if they were just to call the County Administrator’s Office,” she emphasizes.
Other resource information the RACES team will have at their fingertips for callers includes locations of the tree removal projects now being coordinated by the county; which county-hired contractors are working in what neighborhoods; and how to get a hold of US Forest Service officials on adjacent properties to discuss related tree concerns.
For anyone with dead and dying trees on their property, due to tree mortality and drought, Riggs advises the first thing to do is look to see if it is near power lines and/or county infrastructure.
Help For Trees Near Infrastructure
“If it is, then there is something that we and/or PG&E will be able to help with,” Riggs maintains. Under its emergency plan, the county has funding resources available to go in and remove trees on properties within 200 feet of county infrastructure. As she describes, “There’s some give and take on that — but essentially, if you have a tree that is 120 feet from the road and the tree is 150 feet tall, then we can take that tree out.” Unfortunately, at present, she says, “There is not any funding available for just private landowners who have trees that to not threaten public infrastructure — but we are working on that.”
Plans, too, according to Riggs, are to maintain the hotline service through at least the rest of this year. She confides, “The problem with tree mortality, from talking to some of our counterparts in other states, that this…can last for years – in Colorado, it was 12 years – so we are going to play it day by day, and as long as we have volunteers we can keep this phone line open.”
The Tree Mortality Information Line is available at 209 533-6394. The number has two lines available, so if both are busy callers will be placed into voicemail, where they should leave a message. Riggs says all calls will be returned as soon as possible.