SonomaCountyRecovers: Official recovery information for Sonoma County fires

Burned Trees Near County Roads

County Transportation and Public Works maintains roads in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County, and is making repairs to the 90 miles of roads in burned areas to ensure safe road conditions. Part of this work included an assessment of trees that have the potential of falling into a County road, both in the public Right of Way and on private property. The County hired a professional arborist to evaluate burned trees, which have been tagged for removal or pruning.

  • County Right of Way – Work crews for a contractor hired by the County have started removing some of the fire-damaged trees in the County Right-of-Way that were identified by the arborist as presenting a risk to public safety and roadways. The project is expected to continue through April 2019, weather permitting. Property owners  adjacent to the tree removal will be notified by Transportation & Public Works. Please watch for message boards and work crews in your neighborhood and drive with care. Call the Construction Hotline at 707-565-2533 or email TPW@Sonoma-County.org with any questions.
  • Private Property – The County is considering how to best ensure that trees on private property, which threaten the safety of people who use County roads, will be removed. Property owners will be informed if they could be responsible for removing the trees.

While some trees may recover years after being burned, the County must prioritize public safety and remove any trees or limbs that could endanger road users.

Removing Burnt Trees in the City of Santa Rosa

Discretionary tree removal permits are not required within the wildfire impacted areas of the City of Santa Rosa (Resilient City overlay district). However, you will need to photograph the tree’s condition prior to its removal. The photographs must then be presented at the time of building permit or entitlement application submittal. Planning and Economic Development staff members will evaluate the submitted photographic information, as well as the pre-fire tree conditions through a review of the historical permit record and/or an examination of historical aerial photographs, and work with property owners to encourage, or require in the case of discretionary permits such as Hillside Development Permits or Design Review applications, an appropriate and proportionate tree replanting program commensurate with the pre-fire tree conditions for each parcel. For information on using insurance debris removal funds for private debris removal work, including burnt trees, please review the Debris Removal Insurance Reimbursement Information.

If you are attempting to retain any trees that clearly exhibit fire damage, it is recommended that an arborist report be obtained to determine the long-term health of the tree.

Removing Burnt Trees In Unincorporated Areas of Sonoma County

Property owners do not need a permit from Sonoma County to remove a damaged tree if they live in unincorporated County jurisdiction.
Determine if you live in the city limits or in an unincorporated area.

Tree Care on Private Property

If a tree on your land is not a threat to life or property, you may consider leaving it in place even if it is scarred from the fire. Native trees may recover over time, sometimes re-sprouting from the base. Trees that have burned may still provide benefits such as soil stabilization and habitat.

CAL FIRE timber permits (outside Santa Rosa City limits)

In California, anyone who conducts timber operations on what is deemed timberland must be a licensed as a timber operator (LTO) by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The basic guidelines:

  • If you have land that can be defined as Timberland,
  • And if you cut down trees on it to sell, trade, barter or exchange,
  • Or you cut the trees and use the land where the trees were growing for another use (vineyard, house, driveway, etc),
  • Then you have conducted “Timber Operations” and need to comply with the California State Forest Practice Rules.

First step for property owners who want to remove trees and sell them as lumber is to determine if they are actually considered to be Timberland. If you are in the city of Santa Rosa, the answer is no — you are not in Timberland. No permit is needed from CAL FIRE if inside Santa Rosa city limits.

If you are planning on a project in Sonoma, Lake, and Napa Counties that might involve Timber Operations, contact the CAL FIRE Resource Management Office in Santa Rosa at (707) 576-2344 for clarification and a list of licensed Foresters and Timber Operators.

You may also visit the State Forest Practice webpage for more information and permit forms.

PG&E Hazardous Tree Removal Efforts

PG&E is finished felling thousands of dead and dying trees in the burn areas that could contact power lines. The utility’s free wood hauling program for qualifying logs that PG&E felled is still active. Go to PG&E’s website for more information.

Contact Air Quality District About Open Burns to Remove Green Waste

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is also working to assist residents affected by the wildfires within its jurisdiction in southern Sonoma County.  Residents interested in discussing the option of conducting an open burn to remove fire-damaged green waste on their property to reduce or eliminate fire hazard should call the BAAQMD at (415) 749-4600 for requirements.

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