Burned, standing trees a threat in Durango area | SummitDaily.com

Burned, standing trees a threat in Durango area

DURANGO – Forestry officials are warning that dead trees left standing after a 70,000-acre wildfire nearly four years ago are in danger of toppling onto roads and trails, endangering drivers, hunters and others.”These trees that are fire-killed and don’t have any needles are going to be falling over with a greater frequency,” U.S. Forest Service forester Mike Johnson told the Durango Herald in Sunday’s editions”Our concerns are particularly where the fire got close to the roads and common-use areas,” he said.”If it’s a windy day, you may want to postpone your trip,” he said.The 2002 Missionary Ridge fire destroyed 56 homes. One firefighter was killed when the roots of a burned tree gave way and the trunk fell on him.That’s the danger now facing others, officials said.”The most unstable species are those at the lower elevations of the burned area, where visitors or property are concentrated,” Forest Service supervisor Steve Hartvigsen wrote in a letter prepared at a resident’s request.Forest Service officials said their research has shown that ponderosa pines fall 53 percent more than normal five years after a fire. Ponderosas line many roads in the Missionary Ridge fire area.Homeowners and government agencies have removed many of the weakened trees, but foresters worry that could lure residents into thinking the danger is past. In fact, the weakened trees are likely to pose a threat for years, Hartvigsen wrote.Strat Stepan, who lives in the burned area, wants La Plata County and landowners to do more. But County Commissioner Sheryl Ayers said state forestry officials have said it would be difficult to identify which trees are in danger of falling.”We have not decided that there’s any action on our part needed,” Ayers said.

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