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This is how a Flowery Branch company helps prevent forest fires in California
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FAE USA CEO Giorgio Carera stands next to a purpose built mulcher Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, which is designed for vegetation management to mitigate fires. The Flowery Branch based company is one of the world leaders supplying heavy machinery to help prevent wildfires. - photo by Scott Rogers

A company in Flowery Branch is helping to stop forest fires from spreading in California. 

Forestry and Agricultural Equipment USA Inc. supplies forestry mulchers and other heavy duty equipment that break down underbrush to keep forests safe and make it more difficult for fires to spread. 

FAE, which employs more than 300 people worldwide moved its U.S. headquarters and distribution center from Grayson to eight acres of land in Flowery Branch in 2006. 

FAE’s size helps set it apart with more than 300 dealers around the country who can provide service if there are any issues with equipment. 

“It’s like if you buy a car,” CEO Giorgio Carera said. “It breaks down and you need service, you want to be able to take it back to your dealership and get it serviced or prepared and get back on the road as quick as you can.”

So how does the equipment work?

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A company based in Flowery Branch supplies forestry mulchers and other heavy duty equipment that break down underbrush to keep forests safe and make it more difficult for fires to spread.

Once fires reach the top of the forest they become much more difficult to stop, said Jeston Smith, owner of Double Tree Forest Management, a Mariposa, California-based firm that contracts with local governments to manage forests and fight fires. The company has used FAE equipment since 2016.

“The quality and how they build their equipment is just superior in my opinion,” Smith said. “Especially out here in California where the terrain can be so difficult to get around. There’s nothing that’s flat out here.”

This process of vegetation management and fuel reduction is incredibly important, Smith said, because without these services, forests can grow so thick you can’t walk through them, and the underbrush becomes flammable material for fires. 

“We’ll come in with that equipment, and we’ll clear out all of that understory brush that’s super dense and leave all the best trees and basically make the forest a lot healthier and fire resistant,” Smith said. “You get rid of all of those ladder fuels, and if a fire does start at some point in the area, when it comes to a spot where we’ve worked, the fire will basically just drop down to the ground level and slow way down.”

Masticators or forestry mulchers are like large tractors that can go over many types of terrain with an attachment at the front that spins incredibly fast to churn vegetation on the forest floor into mulch. The technology has been around for more than 30 years, but some local and state governments have put resources into fire prevention of this kind only recently. 

And though Georgia does not have big wildfires like the west coast, Carera said, FAE equipment is used in the state to clear land in a way that’s healthier for the soil than bulldozing. Managing forests and mulching overgrown vegetation is not only important for preventing fires, Carera said, but it helps water retention and prevents erosion. 

“You need to have a healthy forest to prevent fires or reduce the chance of fire,” Carera said.

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FAE USA CEO Giorgio Carera visits a few of his heavy machines Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, built for vegetation management to mitigate fires. The Flowery Branch based company is one of the world leaders supplying heavy machinery to help prevent wildfires. - photo by Scott Rogers
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