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Paradise looking to take legal action against homeowners in effort to remove hazardous trees

Paradise is discussing hiring hearing officers to deal with an influx of notices to allow inspectors onto private property of homeowners who have not signed up with a hazardous tree removal program.

Posted: Feb 23, 2021 11:59 PM
Updated: Feb 24, 2021 8:17 AM

PARADISE, Calif. - More than two years after the Camp Fire, the people of Paradise are still threatened by thousands of hazardous trees, mostly on private property.

Now, the town is taking new action to prevent tragedy.

The Town Council plans to discuss in their next meeting, hiring hearing officers to get notices to homeowners to allow tree inspectors onto their property to get rid of trees that pose threats to the public.

"I just had a baby in December," said Derek Van Bruggen, who just moved to Magalia. "So it's nice that we don't have to worry about trees that can damage our house or hurt someone."

And he's thankful there's no longer a hazardous tree hanging over his home.

"They cleared out a bunch of the dead trees behind our house so it's been a positive experience," he said.

In their special meeting Tuesday, the council passed a motion to discuss hiring hearing officers in their next town council meeting, to deal with a future influx of notices the Town could send to homeowners, that would allow the removal of hazardous trees on private property.

"On the unenrolled side, we have 820 properties," said Paradise Disaster Recovery Director, Katie Simmons.

"The trees need to be properly identified. You can't show a judge a property picture of six trees. We need very qualified arborist reports that convince the court that we've done our due diligence, that tree is a danger, here it is," explained Town Engineer, Mark Mattox. "Give us the authority to take it down."

Mattox said the faster the trees can be removed, the less likely a homeowner is responsible if it falls.

"This here is a liability issue for a lot of people. We know the trees are a problem, they've been around for a couple of years now," he said. "So if you leave your tree you could be subjecting yourself to some problems if it hurts somebody or something."

But the town is still hoping to get every homeowner on board so they do not have to issue any notices.

"We're also circulating internally a property abatement risk property owner list," said Simmons. "So that we can reach out to friends, family, neighbors who we know to explain the burdensome expense or abatement, and so we can encourage them to work with our tree advocates."

With these notices, the homeowners will be forced to allow inspectors onto the property.

As of late January, the tree removal program has gotten rid of around 20,000 or the 75,000 marked trees in the Camp Fire burn scar.

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