‘Standing dead’ trees from drought, bark beetle fueling explosive wildfires


Millions of dead trees killed by the Pine Bark Beetle are providing highly-combustible fuel for large and fast wildfires.

The Pine Bark Beetle spread quickly through the Sierra Nevada after trees were weakened by drought.

As dry conditions continue, the dry ample fuels could lead to explosive wildfire growth.

CalFire captain Dan Urias says these ‘standing dead’ forests can fuel highly dangerous wildfires.

“The pine trees have dropped all their needles. There’s tons of pine litter on the ground. The limbs are no longer supportive. Limbs are falling down. We have a standing dead forest at this point.”

Up to 26 million trees will die this year from drought or beetles.  27 million trees died last year.  62 million died in 2016.

Urias says, “The area of 4,000 feet and above is critical.  The tree mortality; we’ve been working very hard as CALFIRE to create fuel breaks, to reduce fuel and to mitigate some of the hazards here in our backyard.”

The dead trees and dry conditions have pushed levels of forest fuel dryness to new records — forests more combustible now than ever before.

Urias says, “Knowing that the threat is high we’re constantly working through the fire season and through the off season in the wintertime.”

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