Possible hazard? Fallen trees sit on Lyman Gilmore school property; nearby resident wants them cleared | TheUnion.com

Possible hazard? Fallen trees sit on Lyman Gilmore school property; nearby resident wants them cleared

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
John Barsby lives near this wooded trail behind Lyman Gilmore Middle School and has been complaining to the school, city, and county officials about trees felled that were never removed as well as overgrown vegetation that could be a fire hazard.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

John Barsby lives about 100 yards from an assortment of fallen trees.

The dead wood and extending branches lay among uncleaned brush on a trail behind Lyman Gilmore Middle School adjacent to Condon Park.

Barsby said he first noticed the trees over a year ago during the morning, when he and his wife take a stroll through the school grounds’ trail.

For the past year, the Grass Valley resident said he’s gone to Grass Valley School District meetings, spoken with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Fire Marshal Terry McMahan, written complaint letters and has tried galvanizing neighborhood support to clean up the potential fire hazard.

“I’m trying to get the squeaky wheel some oil,” said Barsby.

On June 28, 2018, McMahan sent a letter to the Grass Valley School District to try spurring action toward a cleanup. After that time, the fire marshal met with the district’s Assistant Superintendent Brian Martinez, who had Cal Fire Washington Ridge crews clean up brush alongside homes buttressing the middle school property.

However, the fallen trees drawing Barsby’s concern had not been touched.

“They went out and cut grass and stuff,” said McMahan. “They just didn’t have the budget to have someone come and remove the rest of the stuff and debris.”

Barsby, a longtime Grass Valley resident who has made his living and raised children in the county, said he fears a teenager might toss a lit cigarette or light a firework near the area, setting the brush alight and igniting a wildfire.

“I don’t want it to disappear,” Barsby said of Grass Valley. “I love it here. I want to live the rest of my life here.”

The owner of a local landscape company, Barsby has lived through the 1988 49er Fire and has had friends lose their homes to wildfires. He estimates about 50 dead trees need to be cleaned up on the school’s property. Martinez disputes the number, claiming there are a few dead trees, and they are generally not of much concern.

“It’s a dozen, maybe, trees out there,” he said, adding he has consulted McMahan twice on the issue, and said Barsby is exaggerating the issue.

“Downed trees are not an issue,” said Martinez.

McMahan estimated about 20 to 30 fallen tree “pieces” — not individual trees — scattered around the trail.

The fire marshal explained that downed, dead trees are not as much of a fire concern as dead standing trees, or uncleared brush or tree limbs. Fallen trees, he said, burn hot but are confined to a specific area.

“They are a hazard but they’re more manageable,” said McMahan. “What we want to see is all the ladder fuels gone along any trees.”

Still, McMahan said he shares Barsby’s frustration, and believes the trees have not yet been cleaned up for two reasons: first, a cleanup is costly for a school district and the cheaper Washington Ridge crews can only operate at schools when session is closed during winter or summer break.

Additionally, McMahan said, an ordinance has not been violated — 100 feet of defensible space has been made between homes and the Lyman Gilmore property — and, to his knowledge, none of the property owners near the trail have filed a complaint with Nevada County Consolidated. While nearby, Barsby does not live on a property buttressing Lyman Gilmore.

“For us, we want to make sure there’s a code violation,” McMahan said.

Yet, the fire marshal said he believes the school district — which does not yet have a date to clear brush or remove the fallen trees — will eventually accomplish the cleanup.

“It may not be as timely as we’d hope but it will be done for the most part,” said McMahan.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.


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