Alongside State Route 24 in Contra Costa County lie an abundance of dead and dying Monterey pine trees, their deaths mostly caused by years of drought and invasive bark beetle populations.

In the event of a fire, the pine needles of the dead trees can act as fuel and turn a small roadside flame into a rapid wildfire.

In response, Caltrans has worked alongside the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and Moraga-Orinda Fire District since Dec. 14 to clear out trees between Lafayette’s First Street and the Orinda exit.

The goal of the $150,000 project is to remove over 100 hazardous trees before the summer fire season.

Parviz Lashai, a deputy director of maintenance for Caltrans, said the project is a much greater task than chopping trees down in a forest, however.

“Crews must use a large crane to remove the trees one piece at a time to keep roads open and the public and employees safe,” Lashai said in a statement.

Fire districts also encourage residents to remove dead or dying trees from their property during the winter’s wet months before wildfire prevention inspections kick off in June.

“Wildfire prevention needs to be a year-round project to keep our communities safe,” Moraga-Orinda Fire District’s Fire Marshal, Jeff Isaacs said in a statement.