SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — Plans to create a massive fire break along Highway 17 running from Summit Road north to Los Gatos have run into red tape.

On Friday, Cal Fire outlined some of the logistical challenges that have slowed the start of an important fire mitigation project in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“A lot of this area is private property. So, we do have to go get permission to do this work along their property. The project managers are out there getting permits and permission from the land owners to do the work,” said Cal Fire Assistant Chief Nick Ciardella.

The project is one of 35 identified by Governor Gavin Newsom’s office as of the upmost importance as the state braces for the worst during this year’s fire season.

“Paperwork’s the hardest part,” Gov. Newsom said in a press conference Thursday. “There’s one project up there on Highway 17 that requires 719 permits.”

Cal Fire says the overwhelming majority of the permits or permissions are from private property owners who have land along the Highway 17 corridor. Cal Fire wants to cut some trees and clear brush about 100 to 200 feet on each side of Highway 17 to create defensible space.

“Highway 17 is a very important corridor because it’s an evacuation route for people living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So, our goal is clear the vegetation from the roadway — thin it out really,” Asst. Chief Ciardella said.

The $9 million project will clear trees and brush along a 6.5-mile stretch of Highway 17 from Summit Road north to Los Gatos.

“There’s definitely more that could be done based on what’s happened in the past. I don’t see anything that’s being done differently. And I think there’s plenty of room for growth in that area,” Willie Morrow who lives in nearby Campbell.

Cal Fire says the first phase of the project is expected to start Aug. 12.

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