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Vail firefighters search for dead trees

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyRay Dixon, member of the Town of Vail's Wildland Fire Mitigation crew, gives a final knock on the door of a home with pine beetle infected trees on the property before he leaves a Town of Vail notice indicating the property owner's responsibility to remove the trees Friday in Intermountain. The Town of Vail is requiring all Vail property owners to remove pine beetle infected trees from their property at their own expense by June 2009.
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VAIL ” Gray, shriveled trees hung over this house on Basingdale Boulevard in West Vail.

Ray Dixon duly noted the dying trees in his paperwork, and then knocked on the door. And knocked again. And again.

“No answer,” Dixon said, affixing a letter to the doorknob.



Please be advised, the letter said, that your property may be infested with dendroctonus ponderosae, or mountain pine beetles.

Dixon, a member of the Vail Fire Department’s wildland crew, was canvassing the Intermountain neighborhood looking for dead or diseased trees. In that neighborhood, the most likely reason for their declining health is the mountain pine beetle infestation, which is killing as many as 90 percent of lodgepole pines there.



Last November, the town passed a new law that requires homeowners to cut down pine-beetle-infested trees on their property. If homeowners are found to have dead or dying trees on their land, they must cut down the trees within 30 days ” or submit a plan approved by the town to remove the trees.

The law could affect 350-400 homes across the town, said Tom Talbot, wildland coordinator for the Vail Fire Department.

Dixon showed a long list of infested properties the crew had already identified in East Vail, the other neighborhood it is canvassing. Scores of homes were issued notices. On Gore Circle, every home appeared to have dying trees.



The notices tell homeowners to schedule an inspection and consultation with the Vail Fire Department.

The pine-beetle-infested trees are fire hazards, Talbot said. Also, the weakened infested trees are susceptible to falling over, he said.

The town has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars cutting trees to create a layer of “defensible space” around the town. That clearcut buffer zone is intended to prevent the spread of fire, either from the forest into town or vice versa.

The summer wildland crew, now in its second year, also has been cutting infested trees on town property.

Dixon and his colleagues were having trouble actually finding homeowners in this resort town, where three-quarters of homes are owned by out-of-towners.

On Thursday, despite having knocked on dozens of doors in East Vail, they talked to just four homeowners.

If residents don’t respond to the notices left on the doorknobs, they will be sent a certified letter in the mail.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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