SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — Cal Fire crews are working with added urgency to trim trees and clear brush from 6.5-mile stretch of Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains as the state enters the most dangerous period of the annual fire season.
“One spark is all it takes to set the mountain on fire,” said homeowner Marty Feldman, a resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains for more than four decades.
“If you don’t do it, you’re risking everything. And I tend to be a little bit overcautious,” Feldman said about clearing brush on his own property.
Cal Fire says Highway 17 is both an important evacuation route and — in its current condition — a potential problem. The highway is hemmed in on both sides by overgrown and largely untamed forest.
“We’re getting rid of the dead brush and any limbs that are overhanging the highway. We’re trying to make it safer so there’s a nice, clear space between where the highway and the heavy forest starts,” said Caroline Slivkoff, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council.
The $9 million project is part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide effort to reduce the risk of the devastating wildfires that have ravaged California the past two years.
Cal Fire officials say they hope to have the work complete along Highway 17 by the end of December.
Most neighbors say they’re thankful for Cal Fire’s effort, even if it meant losing a few trees. It is a sacrifice residents are willing to make in the name of safety.
“The last few years have just gotten scarier and scarier. It’s Paradise and we love it,” Feldman said.