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The Vega Fire and the risk of wildfire in North County

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

The recent fire on Vega Road risked becoming a major disaster. Upwards of seven acres burned, which may not sound like a lot, but the location and timing threatened to become a massive conflagration. The fire burned the edge of oak and eucalyptus groves. At seven acres, North County Fire and CAL FIRE have a good chance of containing the fire in a heavily vegetated area. A slightly larger fire would have greatly increased the risk of the fire going out of control and destroying homes and large tracts of land.

North County Fire Chief Joe Mendoza told me told that as the flames licked up the eucalyptus trees, and sparks carried by the wind caused spot fires outside the main fire. This is exactly how a fire gets out of control.

We all should be grateful for the quick and efficient response of our North County and CAL FIRE firefighters. They saved our community once again.

This is the second recent fire in a eucalyptus grove. Just last year, there was a eucalyptus fire in Aromas. It was also contained, but we are rolling the dice of disaster every time a fire ignites in these highly flammable trees.

North County has been spared the fate of Paradise, California, where the entire community was burned to the ground, but we can’t count on favorable winds, luck and perfect responses to a fire every time there is one.

I have long been an advocate of modifying county regulations on the removal of dead trees, as well as reducing the thousands of acres of highly flammable eucalyptus. Fires are a natural occurrence that burn through an area every generation. A natural fire burns quickly without the destructiveness of modern-day fires which burn with intense heat from the excess fuel. This is because we have suppressed fires for over 100 years, thereby creating dense forests with an excess of fuel. The last two major fires in North County that burned for a week each were near Pesante Road in the 1950s and in Elkhorn near Long Canyon in 1905. The buildup of fuel from native vegetation and the presence of eucalyptus have created a firebomb ticking toward destruction in North County.

I am currently working with local and state officials on a pilot program to remove some of our eucalyptus. The details should be forthcoming in the next few months. I have also had multiple conversations about modifying the current tree ordinance that protects our native trees. I am fully supportive of protecting the oaks, manzanita and other native vegetation that we cherish in North County. However, it must be made easier to remove dead trees. Our current regulations require a permit to cut a dead tree. This must change. The larger eucalyptus, a non-native tree, are also protected by a county ordinance. This must also change.

Long before the eucalyptus were here, North County used to have some redwood groves. One of the most prominent was along the west side of San Miguel Canyon Road, approximately across from Hambey Lane. A lumber mill took out these redwoods in the 19th century. It would be far better to replace eucalyptus with native redwoods, which are more beneficial to native animals and plants and far less prone to explosive fires.

I also want to commend the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and California Department of Fish and Wildlife which have done an extraordinary job of removing eucalyptus on the Foundation’s lands. Eucalyptus have recently been removed along Elkhorn Road and opened an amazing view of the Slough while giving native plants an opportunity to reclaim the land. This program is a model for all of Monterey County. The next time you have an opportunity, drive along Elkhorn Road, in the area above Strawberry Road, and you will have a glimpse of the original North County landscape.

As always, don't hesitate to reach out to my office for assistance. You can reach us at 831-755-5022 or


Glenn Church

District 2 Supervisor

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