Tuesday, Aug 27 2013 05:00 AM

Dead and dying trees contribute to fire hazard

If you look up to the mountains above Tehachapi, some of the familiar thick green conifers there are losing their needles and turning brown. Invading Bark Beetles and Scale Insects have been active and many of the trees are dead or dying. This situation occurs when when there has been a series of drought years causing an over abundance of of trees to compete for the water and nutrients they must absorb from the parched ground. Under these conditions the weakened trees cannot successfully fight off the insect attacks and consequently die.

As the forest becomes stressed, the dead trees can become fuel for raging wildfires. Consequently homes and other structures in forested areas face a serious threat. Property owners can take steps to create defensible space around their homes but there is no guarantee that is enough in places where there is an over abundance of dead dry trees.

Here in the Tehachapi area we all remember the devastating wildfires that raged through the Old West Ranch for two years in a row destroying many homes and threatening lives.

Foresters recommend that infected trees be removed in a timely manner before the insects attack nearby healthy trees. But this takes manpower, technical resources and funding. The Greater Tehachapi Fire Safe Council and the Kern County Fire Department are trying to find ways to help residents in forested areas remove dead and dying trees that threaten their property.

In the meantime all of us who live in areas susceptible to wildfire have a responsibility to create defensible space around structures both for ourselves and our neighbors. All flammable vegetation near structures should be removed. State law requires the removal of all dead vegetation and the trimming of low hanging limbs out to a distance of 100 feet from structures. Wildfires create wind that carries burning embers and drops them on flammable materials near structures. It is essential that all property owners clear piles of firewood, dry leaves and dead vegetation around all structures.

If you are concerned about the fire problem created by dead and dying trees your voice needs to be heard. Please contact the following organizations about your concerns; the Greater Tehachapi Fire Safe Council, the Kern County Board of Supervisors and your local Community Service District or Property Owners Association. Together we can find the resources needed to remove dangerous dead and dying trees. In the meantime creating defensible space around structures must be done. You are your own first line of defense.

JOE FONTAINE lives in Tehachapi.

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