Mariposa County residents frustrated by dead, piling trees as crews clear bark beetle infestation

MARIPOSA COUNTY (KFSN) -- Some Mariposa County residents are getting frustrated by the piles of dead trees on their property.

The bark beetle infestation has killed nearly 100 million trees in California, and crews have been working to cut them down but the logs are piling up.

The community of Greeley Hill is inside a national forest, but it's being deforested. The drought and bark beetles killed many of the trees, and PG&E had those trees that threatened to fall on power lines cut down and was supposed to remove them.

Resident Connie Jensen says she's been waiting months for her property to be cleared.

"If I would have known PG&E was not gonna pick up these trees, I never would have let them on my property.

The company notes it's an overwhelming job - tens of millions of trees still have to come down and the contractor hired to clean it all up has run into some problems, including workplace safety issues.

"There were a couple of instances lately in which we had to have those crews stand down and review safety procedures," Denny Boyles with PG&E said. "The safety of those workers is the most important thing. We have to make sure they are safe as they do the work and that caused some delays. And, again, it's the number of trees. There's just an overwhelming number of trees to deal with."

Tree removal is dangerous work, and at least one tree cutter has been killed in Mariposa County. Other deaths and injuries are being reported in tree thinning operations throughout the Sierra, but residents say the downed trees are a threat to their safety.

"If there's a fire up here in this little community, with all of these trees down, these trees are dead. Can you imagine what it's going to do," Jensen said.

Dead trees are being removed on forest service land but not on private property. Jensen says she can't afford the $10,000 it would cost to clear her property. Her husband Bob has been sidelined with a stroke.

"I can't clean it up anymore," he said. "Back before the stroke, I could have helped clean it up. But now I have to hire people."

PG&E is asking folks to be patient.

"We completely understand the frustration some customers have with the speed of that program," Boyles said. "When you are in the foothills, you will see just the volume of trees we are dealing with."

The tree removal contractor told Jensen it could take a year before her property is cleared.

"I'm so frustrated," she exclaimed. "I just don't know what to do anymore."
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