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Falling trees present safety risk after wildfires

Colorado State Forest Service

Wildfires in forested areas leave impacts on the remaining trees for years to come. One of those impacts is that some trees killed by fire will soon start to fall, presenting a risk to life safety.

“Dead trees are easily blown over, because their roots and stem start to decompose. On top of that, wildfire-damaged trees may be partially burned, which also weakens them. So be especially careful entering and recreating in burned areas in the forest,” said Adam Moore, forester for the Colorado State Forest Service Alamosa District. Moore is a member of the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team (RWEACT) — a collaborative multi-organization team working to reduce threats in areas burned by the West Fork Complex Fire.

West Fork Complex Fire personnel have already been inspecting and felling hazard trees along roads and trails, but many hazard trees will remain on the landscape. Moore says that even though the recent wildfires did not burn much acreage on private property, homeowners and forest users should be aware of hazards they may face.

The CSFS offers the following safety tips on trees in wildfire-affected areas:

• Never enter burn areas on windy days.

• Maintain personal awareness while in burned areas. If the wind increases, stop and look up at the trees around you. If the trees are swaying or you are concerned about the falling risk, leave the area immediately.

• Always move with caution in burn areas, and be sure to not dislodge rocks or logs that could roll down-slope into someone below you. Conversely, do not stay directly underneath anyone else on steep, unstable slopes.

• Homeowners should regularly assess trees on their property for falling hazards. Contact your local CSFS forester for more information.

• Dead trees within one-and-a-half times tree height of any structures or property should be removed.

• Contractors with experience felling burned trees should be utilized to remove any severely burned trees.

Landowners with questions or concerns about post-fire hazards can contact the CSFS Alamosa District for more information at (719) 587-0915.

This story was posted on July 25, 2013.