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In December 2017, the USDA Forest Service announced that a record 129 million trees have died across 8.9 acres in California since 2010. Severe droughts and wildfires, such as the 2015 Butte Fire and the 2017 North Bay Fires, contributed to conditions that caused the death of 27 million of those trees, mostly conifers, since 2016.
California's 2012-2015 droughts created the perfect storm for a huge insect outbreak. A normal amount of insects help maintain the forest by killing off diseased trees that threaten the health of the forest. Since the healthier trees can fight off these attacks, the forest thrives when nature is in balance. When the environment changes due to drought or wildfires, however, more and more trees can become too stressed to ward off insect attacks. According to a natural resources advisor for the Universities of California, from 2012-2015, many of California's trees just weren't getting the moisture that they needed to be healthy.
Since healthy trees are less of a fire risk than dry and dying trees, by 2015, the trees were ripe for a wildfire. The highest risk of fire is when dying trees still have their needles, but those needles are "red and dead," not green and healthy. The dried-out needles turn into high-intensity fuel, like kindling for a campfire. Later, when the dead trees fall, they create piles of dry logs on the forest floor that burn hotter and longer than any other trees in the forest.
After a tragic series of wildfires spanning from 2015 to 2018, California's forests are devastated. The trees that survived the burns have fallen prey to bark beetles and other insect infestations. 27 million of the 129 million trees that died from drought and infestations died in 2016 alone.
With such a high volume of dead trees, California's forest services are overwhelmed at the task of falling and removing dead and dangerous trees. In 2018, these trees continue to pose a hazard to people and critical infrastructure. People who own homes in forested areas already know the risks and are consumed with the tasks of clearing their properties of dead trees. Visiters, however, aren't always as prepared. Hikers and campers are urged to beware of their surroundings and know that dying trees can fall without warning.
Dead trees are just one of the horrific impacts California wildfires have caused in recent years. But they are also one of the primary reasons experienced wildfire lawyers can be of assistance after such disasters. Homeowners insurance policies do not often carry coverage for dead trees, and often it takes a wildfire lawsuit to obtain the recovery needed to remove dead trees and reforest the landscape. Since 2007, our lawyers have helped assess millions of fire damaged trees, and have recovered millions of dollars toward the reforestation of California lands ravaged by wildfire.
With such an overwhelming task before us, it's up to all of us to recreate the beauty and restore the health of our land. Learn more about what you can do to help restore California's forests by visiting the USDA Forest Service's web site: Our Changing Forests.
Assessing fire damaged trees