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Amendment No. 115.
LIST OF WITNESSES
Northcutt Ely, Washington attorney for East Bay Municipal Utilities Dis-
State of California Office of Emergency Services, Robert L. Vickers, deputy
Letter from Darrell M. Trent, Acting Director to Senator Cranston,
furnishing informational enclosures on section 221 and summary
Jerome R. Waldie, Congressman from State of California, written state
ment Telegram from Mayor of Oakland, Calif., to President Nixon --Berkeley Daily Gazette:
Article, “State, Feds, Fiddle While Bay Eucalyptus Burns"
Aerial map depicting proposed clearances of dead eucalyptus..
Outline of plan of action.--
fornia Native Plant Society-Interdepartmental correspondence to:
Richard Trudeau, April 17, 1973, from Gary Tate ---
Declaration of Local Emergency--City of El Cerrito, fire department:
Letter listing chronological actions taken to eliminate fire hazard to
Office of Emergency Services..
Circular, “Property Owner's Guide for Fire Safety".
Declaration, John S. Harnett, general manager.
Resolution No. 26439_
Hildebrand (ass't. director, San Leandro).
on financial assistance from Federal administration to local agencies.. Summary statement of citizen's fire hazard committee--
84 85 108 108 109 109 109 110 110
PREDISASTER ASSISTANCE FOR EUCALYPTUS TREES
WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 1973
U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON BANKING, HOUSING, AND URBAN AFFAIRS,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee was convened at 2:15 p.m., in room 5302, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Senator Alan Cranston, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.
Senator CRANSTON. The hearing will please come to order.
I have a brief opening statement, and then we will proceed with the witnesses.
I want to make a correction. Through some inadvertence, the name of our principal witness, whose availability determined the time when we would have this hearing, fell off the printed list of witnesses, so our first witness will be Darrell Trent, Acting Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness.
He will be followed with a change in the order by Mr. Edwin Meese, representative of Governor Reagan, who has to leave at 3:30.
OPENING REMARKS OF SENATOR ALAN CRANSTON
In April 1970, as Senate hearings were about to begin on a new comprehensive disaster program, which was to become the Disaster Relief Act of 1970, President Richard Nixon sent a special message to Congress outlining his views on what a national disaster program should include.
Under the special heading of “Disaster Prevention,” the President relayed the following thoughts to the Congress:
In March and April 1969 this Administration conducted a massive flood prevention program in the upper Midwest and New England. This program-Operation Foresight—was immensely successful; it prevented widespread human suffering and an estimated $200 million in damages, at a cost of $20 million. The success of this disaster prevention effort suggests that we can do a great deal to avoid or limit the effects of expected disasters. Accordingly, I am proposing legislation which would extend the Federal Government's authority to assist State and local governments in disaster prevention and damage reduction activities. That concept, predisaster assistance, became law several months later. Section 221 of the Disaster Relief Act of 1970 authorized the President to make the resources of the Federal Government available in order to avert or lessen the effects of a disaster considered to be imminent.
The purpose of this special hearing is to consider a special bill which would require the same President to carry out his own proposal; to make predisaster assistance available in a situation when a major disaster is about as predictable as any natural disaster could be.
We will be exploring the question of whether this request for disaster prevention aid was decided on its merits or whether perhaps the obsession with cutting the domestic budget so distorted the perspective of this administration that it cannot see a disaster when one may be coming
In December 1972, a severe 10-day freeze struck large sections of northern and central California, killing or severely damaging citrus and vegetable crops, crippling the cut flower industry and damaging or destroying countless species of plants and other vegetation.
But the worst of the damage did not become known right away. Throughout the east San Francisco Bay area, spread over an area of 2,500 acres, are millions of eucalyptus trees. A kind of trademark of the San Francisco area, these are tall, graceful shade trees, which give off an aroma of eucalyptus oil. The trees were imported from Australia about 80 years ago as a commercial venture and spread quickly throughout the area.
The prolonged December freeze-unprecedented in that part of California–killed about 1 million eucalyptus. The dead and dying trees are spread throughout parkland and densely populated residential areas. The hills across San Francisco Bay, once green and lush now are brown, dry, and extremely hazardous. Even when they are alive, eucalyptus trees are highly combustible. The oil contained in the leaves and bark enhances combustibility. In a dry state, combustion potential is greatly increased. Eucalyptus trees characteristically shed leaves and strips of bark. In dead and dying trees, this process is quickened. The resulting ground cover debris is in itself a serious fire hazard. Members of my staff, whom I sent to survey the area with local officials, tell me that in some areas this ground cover is already waist-deep.
These hill areas of Alameda and Contra Costa counties have a grim history of fire. Late summer and early fall are periods of particularly high fire hazard. During these months a combination of factors come together producing situation known and feared in some areas of southern California also, called the “Santana effect.” It is marked by extreme dryness, high temperatures, low humidity and winds from a northeasterly direction. During this period in 1923, fire in the East Bay hills destroyed 624 homes. During the same period in 1970 another fire destroyed 39 homes and the Federal Government paid out $5 million in disaster relief.
Highly skilled and experienced firefighters in the East Bay say of the Santana phenomenon, "If it's a small fire, anyone can put it out. If its a northeaster, no one can.'
Agricultural experts, firefighters, civil defense and other authorities have been joining forces for the past 3 months to develop short- and long-range plans for fire suppression and prevention, tree removal and clearing of debris. It is a monumental job. The trees are very large and must be felled by skilled tree experts, at costs up to several hundred dollars per tree where they are near homes and utility lines. The
debris to be cleared includes not only the tons of wood from the felled trees, but as much as 100,000 pounds per acre of branches, bark, leaves and other decaying material which the dead trees are shedding.
Authorities warn of a terrifying firestorm if the dreaded blaze occurs before much of this flammable debris is removed. In eucalyptus forests in Australia, burning material has been known to travel up
to 24 miles ahead of the main fire front, setting new fires along the way. Authorities in California warn that if fire breaks out on a windy day, burning bits of bark may rain down on a dozen cities in the East Bay metropolitan area, causing an unimaginable holocaust.
The Governor of California has declared a state of emergency and pledged manpower and money to lessen the immediate danger. A 12-mile-wide firebreak is being built in the hope of containing a large fire.
The cities, counties, parks district and utilities district in the affected areas, have drawn up a master plan for tree cutting and removal of the most dangerous debris in the highest risk areas. Work has begun and massive commitments of money have been made by these agencies, in some cases forcing cutbacks or cancellation of many of the programs which are the routine responsibility of the agencies, such as providing park and recreational facilities for tens of thousands of area residents.
Emergency fire fighting and evacuation plans have been put into effect. New reservoirs and water mains are being constructed in time for the fire season. To read in the local press about the preparations which are being made, one would think he was reading a science fiction novel or an elaborate doomsday plan.
I would like to enter into the record at this point articles from the Oakland Tribune dated March 9, 1973, and the Los Angeles Times dated April 8, 1973, detailing some of the activities, plans and precautions now underway by local authorities. If the worst fears of many of us come to pass sometime in the dangerous months ahead, and fires burn out of control throughout the metropolitan East Bay area, I want the record to show that officials of the cities, counties and agencies involved will have done everything humanly possible to avert or lessen the catastrophy.
But they are not miracle workers. A million trees on 2,500 acres need to be cut down and removed, at costs ranging up to $15,000 per acre. Commercial value of eucalyptus wood is virtually nil. The total cost is estimated at $25 to $32 million and the master plan for clearing and reforesting the area will take about 5 years to complete. Federal aid is essential if the job is to be done. Even if the financial resources were available without Federal aid, there is a constitutional prohibition on the use of public funds to clear the dead trees on private lands. Thousands of homeowners face the task of removing dead trees from their property at very high costs, with no possibility of financial aid from the State or local governments. For some, the cost represents more than the total value of their property. For many it will mean the loss of their homes, because they cannot afford to pay to have the trees removed. So the city will be forced to declare the property a threat to public safety, come in and clear the trees out, add the cost to the homeowner's property tax bill, and end up owning the property because the homeowner cannot pay his tax bisl.