Two years before a deadly fire leveled Berry Creek and killed at least 11 people, the community was selected to receive an $836,000 state grant for pruning vegetation and clearing fuel from potential fire spots.
But the forest management project was never completed because of red tape, said local officials, who now wonder whether clearing the area of potential fuel might have changed the fortunes of Berry Creek, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.
“I can’t guarantee that it would’ve stopped the fire, but it would have given them a place to fight it,” said Bill Connelly, a Butte County supervisor representing the district that includes Berry Creek.
The grant was meant to go toward vegetation thinning and pruning projects near Bald Rock and Rockefeller roads — key evacuation routes — and Lake Madrone, an area that became ground zero of the North Complex Fire.
The delay, Butte County officials said, was due to stringent environmental reviews, despite this being exactly the kind of fire-prevention work at the forefront of the state’s wildfire conversation.