Dying trees posing threat from fires, storms in California

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (KABC) -- Millions of dead and dying trees across the state are posing a big threat from both fires and storms triggered by El Nino.

Steve Dominey and his wife, Sharon, say between the bark beetle and the drought, the trees can't catch a break.

"The only thing that stops the bark beetle is water, and if there is no water other than cutting the trees down after they die, you're sort of between a rock and a hard place," Dominey said.

It's so bad that Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

A dead-tree census by the U.S. Forest Service found 22 million trees have died during the four-year drought. The governor is asking for federal money and resources to help remove the trees before they fuel a devastating wildfire.

Brown is calling the massive tree die-off a risk to the lives of Californians who live in rural and forest communities much like Idyllwild.

"We've benefited from federal aid in and around our community before, and we're looking forward to receiving additional federal aid in the form of boots on the ground actually removal of fuel on the forest area adjacent to us," said Chief Patrick Reitz with the Idyllwild Fire Protection.

Reitz says cutting the trees down isn't enough. They also need to be hauled out of the community. The Domineys agree.

"A lot of the dead trees were just left up until when the Mountain Fire started up here, and we finally were able to get someone to haul away all the dead trees," Sharon Dominey said.

The governor is asking state fire agencies to identify the areas where dead trees pose the highest risk. In Idyllwild, those areas aren't hard to spot.
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