Vail inspections aim to ward off wildfires |

Vail inspections aim to ward off wildfires

Preston Utley/Vail DailyTom Talbot of the Vail Fire Department does assessments of people's yard to make sure they have enough defensible space and that there aren't any dangerous, pine-beetle-infested trees in yards.

VAIL, Colorado ” Tom Talbot was finding a lot of trees to mark with the ominous blue stripe.

“That one is a bad one, too?” asked Zdenek Bauer, caretaker for this home on Eagles Nest Circle.

“Yes. Here. Here and here,” said the Vail Fire Department’s Talbot, pointing to different trees.

Bauer sprayed each dead, red-needled tree with blue paint, marking it to be cut down.

Fifteen trees in all were marked. They had all succumbed to pine beetle, their trunks infested with the tiny bugs that are killing huge amounts of lodgepole pines all over Colorado.

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“These trees have really been hit hard,” Talbot said.

He pointed to yellow tubes sticking out of a tree trunk, evidence that the tree had tried ” unsuccessfully ” to fight the bugs.

Bauer had requested the Vail Fire Department to do a free wildfire “Firewise” defensible space assessment. Talbot examined the house and the yard for fire dangers. The trees were the most obvious ones.

Infested or dead trees that are within 30 feet of a home are considered a fire danger and should be cut down, according to Colorado State Forest Service guidelines. In addition, a new town law passed last year requires that dangerous dead and infested trees to be removed.

The Fire Department has already done 18 Firewise inspections this year.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic has worsened in Eagle County over recent years. Forest Service officials expect as many as 90 percent of mature lodgepole pine to die in parts of Vail.

At the home on Eagles Nest Circle, Talbot also advised Bauer to relocate the house’s wood pile farther from the home. He also cited some pine needles that had accumulated on the roof.

Bauer said he’ll call a tree-cutter to get the dead pine trees removed within the next few weeks.

Talbot did find one small tree ” surrounded by dead ones ” in the backyard that he thought had resisted the epidemic.

“That one, it appears to be OK,” Talbot said. “I’d leave this. Maybe it’ll make it.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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