Making Chico safe again

Denice Britton

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Denice Britton has worked in the tree-service industry for more than 20 years, and she’s seen storms worse than the one Chico endured last Friday. But that doesn’t make the cleanup any easier. Since the hurricane-force winds hit, toppling trees and sending limbs flying, Britton—urban-forest manager for the city of Chico—and dozens of others have been working from dawn to dusk to make the streets safe again. Britton has been in charge of prioritizing and organizing the crews for the mammoth task, which she described Tuesday afternoon.

How many people do you have out in the field cleaning up debris?

There are seven people on the tree crew itself, but all the people in public works have been helping out and assisting, including the parks people and the sewer and roads people. There have been 35 to 40 people out at all times working. They have loaders and dump trucks to clear the streets, and then a street sweeper once an area is actually cleared. We still have a lot of work to do.

Have you relied on calls to notify you of hazards, or have you gone out to see for yourself?

Both. We had a couple hundred phone calls to our direct line on Friday—close to 250 incidents—and then we’ve had a few others trickle in since then. In addition to that, we had several people just out [on city streets] calling things in. I was canvassing the area just south of Lindo on the east side and found five or six trees with broken branches hanging over the sidewalk. They’re private trees, but they hang over the sidewalk. So we will alleviate the hazard and notify the property owner to have those trees looked at.

What was the craziest thing your crew faced this week?

The hairiest one that I saw was on Mangrove and Fifth, where a 100-foot-tall deodar cedar fell over. It was about 40 inches in diameter. When it fell over, it hit an adjacent tree of the same size and knocked off many of the branches and compromised it…. If the second went over, it was either going to go into Kragen Auto Parts or into the street, so we made the decision to go ahead and cut down that tree. Obviously we evacuated the building at Kragen Auto Parts because we weren’t absolutely 100 percent sure the tree was going to go where we wanted it to go. It went down as planned, and we were very pleased.

What’s left to do?

The parks supervisor did go through Bidwell Park, and he’s asked me to evaluate about eight trees. At this point we’re keeping the park closed to vehicular traffic. Obviously that’s a second priority to the streets in town. We’re getting a good handle on the most dangerous situations.