OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Residents of an Oakland Hills neighborhood who know the threat of a firestorm all too well have taken on the job of fire prevention themselves.

It is a dangerous and costly problem shared by cities like Oakland and Berkeley, multiple counties, East Bay Regional Parks, and a host of other municipalities and governmental agencies. This week, however, fuel management is being done by some neighbors who came up with the money on their own.

“We are taking out the smaller diameter Monterey Pine trees that are the understory plants in the grove,” said Ed Evans of Arbor Day Tree Care.

After four days of tree and brush removal, one can now see some before-and-after in a few spots.

“Yeah, that’s where our first push was,” Evans says, pointing to an area of forest floor cleared of many trees. “Now we’re kind of moving over to the other side.”

The park is Oakland’s wildland-urban interface, and it’s the same spot worried neighbors pointed to in a KPIX 5 report last June.

“This is all Joaquin Miller Park down here,” neighbor Jere Lipps said at the time. “My estimate is a doubling or tripling of the fuel load in this canyon.”

A top concern has been Skyline Boulevard. So when the city did not have funding for fuel reduction on this critical escape path, neighbors secured a $10,000 grant from the California Fire Foundation.

“We have grant funding for this area, which is kind of small in comparison to the entire park,” explained Jay Cassianni is with Friends of Sausal Creek, the group that got the grant, and now the arborist.

“At this point,” Cassianni said, “it’s a really large, expensive time-consuming project to take care of this much open space.”

They say the cost and scale of the project can’t be a reason to not make a little progress when possible.

“Because the resources are finite, everyone knows that,” Evans says. “The risk seems infinite. But, if you do things like this, coming through and making it so the fire department can do its job, can you cut the risk immensely.”

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