Beetle Kill Turns Forest Red, Raises Wildfire Risk

Beetle Kill Turns Forest Red, Raises Wildfire Risk

15 August 2006

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Denver, CO, USA — Experts and emergency management officials in Grand County worry that a large stretch of forest devastated by pine beetles may be waiting to burn in a massive wildfire.

At least a quarter million acres of lodge pole pines are either dead or dying because of the mountain pine beetle. They’ve turned once green forests into large areas of dead, red colored trees.

“Some of these county roads are very thin,” Billy Sumerlin, director of Grand County’s Natural Resources department said. “It makes it very difficult for fire apparatus to get in, especially if we’re in the process of trying to get people out.”

Homeowners have cut trees around their properties to create defensible space and protect their homes.

“I think it would be impossible to stay on top of it at the rate it is going, it’s alarming,” Katy Hoops said on a recent visit to Grand Lake.

Grand County has worked to improve the effectiveness of its reverse 911 system because of the pine beetle problem. But that may not be enough warning for people if there is a fast moving fire.

In one exercise, officials found the only place to go for safety was the large lakes full of water.

“We’ve had instances where if something happens we’re not going to get a lot of help,” Chief Todd Holzwarth of the East Grand Fire Protection District said.


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