GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) – It’s a race against time in Nevada County ahead of the wildfire season. Thousands of downed trees from December’s massive snowstorm are still scattered across the county.

Officials are warning the fire season could be even worse than expected if those trees-turned-kindlings aren’t removed soon.

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Steve Monaghan, director of emergency services, estimates the county probably collected about 3,500 tons of downed trees from the storm – a weight equivalent to about 450 school buses of debris.

The concern? Cleanup is far from over.

“We think it’s just a fraction,” Monaghan said. “The immediate concern is getting this kind of debris or brush away from people’s homes. So, that 100-foot of defensible space – that’s what we’re really focusing on.”

Some of the green waste is used for a senior firewood program or hauled to Lincoln to generate power.

Removal challenges include rugged terrain, an aging population and the sheer volume of downed vegetation.

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Monaghan said the county is offering grants to help people who may not be able to physically remove downed trees from their properties.

Another barrier for some residents? Removal costs are expensive. On Monday, there will be a free green waste disposal event.

“Where I live, I have trees everywhere,” said Mariah Romero, a Grass Valley resident. “My whole property is tree, tree, tree, tree – oaks and pine, cedars –  everywhere.”

The homeowner said a tree crashed through her home during the winter storm. Months later, she’s still cleaning up her property while fixing her home.

It’s a story the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County hears often following the storm. The non-profit helps communities prepare for wildfires.

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“It can potentially have devastating impacts if we can’t get that vegetation removed in a timely manner,” said executive director Jamie Jones.

Shawnte Passmore