The California Coastal Commission recently approved a plan improve fire safety in Cambria where the largest stand of Monterey pines under private ownership is located.
The trees are fire-adapted, which means they are supposed to burn as part of their life-cycle. The fire helps open up the pine cones and spread new seeds.
"A thousand-acre fire adjacent to the town of Cambria would be catastrophic," said San Luis Obispo Fire Safe Council Manager, Dan Turner.
On October 15th, the California Coastal Commission approved a plan that would restore the Monterey pine forest to a healthy condition and protect the community from wildfires.
"So it's adapted to fire but it hasn't had fire in that forest in over 120 years," said Turner.
Because the trees haven’t burned in such a long time, one of the goals of the project is to replicate what should have happened naturally from burning by removing overgrowth.
"It would open it up, get more sunlight to the ground, release nutrients to the ground and then that would promote new growth of Monterey Pine seedlings," said Turner.
Cal Fire isn’t able to apply for a permit directly to the Coastal Commission.
"So I had to apply to the Upper Salinas- Las Tablas RCD in order to get a permit to do work in the coastal zone," said Cal Fire Forestry Assistant, Jonathan Gee.
The two agencies are now partners in the project.
Cambria residents say they are relieved to see the maintenance being done.
"Yes, very glad. It gives us definitely peace of mind at night," said Cambria Resident, Christopher Stathem.
Christopher Stathem of Cambria says the properties are well-maintained but the areas in between the properties need to be addressed.
"They look like they need cleanup in general," said Stathem.
Right now they are doing hand crew work, thinning the diseased trees and making the number of trees per acre fit what the land can handle.
Visitors noticed a pileup of overgrowth by the Cambria Cemetery near Covall Ranch, the first location where the project is set to take place.
"Driving up there on either side of the road we noticed what a huge dead-wood fuel load there is," said visitor Ellen Altamirano.
Altamirano says she is concerned about the houses near the bottom of the canyon if a wildfire were to happen.
"There's these huge, undeveloped areas that have what looks like 70 years worth of dead wood," said Altamirano.
The project is a collaboration between Cal Fire, the San Luis Obispo Fire Safe Council, the Nature Conservancy, the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District, Cal Poly and the owners of Covel Ranch.