County leaders get fire update

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

PUBLIC MEETING: Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, 9 a.m. Tuesday, 2 S. Green St., Sonora.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors is scheduled Tuesday to hear multiple updates on Rim Fire firefighting and recovery efforts, and also consider a letter pushing the U.S. Forest Service to open burned areas to timber harvesters hoping to salvage dead wood that can still be used.

A draft letter going before the board for approval asks Stanislaus National Forest administrators to ensure quick harvest of the dead lumber left after the fire raged through the Tuolumne River canyon network. The letter also recommends putting a special command team together to oversee recovery efforts in the forest.

"The adrenaline of fire suppression needs to morph into a sustained, focused and swift recovery process," reads the letter, which must still be approved by the board and signed by Chairman Randy Hanvelt before it is sent.

The county cites experts who estimate millions of board feet - a common measurement used for lumber - burned in the fire. But, according to the letter, a significant amount of usable lumber remains in the burned area. Because it is dead wood, the lumber "would be lost" if forest officials don't expedite the process to harvest it, the letter states.

A team of 70 Forest Service-led experts is assembling a short- and long-term recovery plan for the forest. According to County Administrator Craig Pedro, that team's preliminary report should come in about 20 days, and the letter asks a separate incident command-type team be in place to make sure those recommendations are carried out quickly.

"The first significant rainfall typically occurs mid-October, leaving precious little time to accomplish a lot of erosion prevention work," Pedro stated in a memo to the supervisors.

The board will also consider extending a "local state of emergency" proclamation and hear updates on the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council and the Southwest Interface Team.

The Union Democrat
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