NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Trees are dying off fast in a New Mexico forest. Now, neighbors are worried it’s creating a more than 50,000-acre fire hazard.
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Pine Meadow Ranches in Cibola County is a remote subdivision a few miles away from the El Morro National Monument. “See the little ones are getting it now, that’s only happened in the last few weeks,” said resident Danny Heim while pointing out the trees.
Heim keeps an eye out on the trees. “See those that are light,” Heim said. “Those are going to be dead in a few days just like these.”
Heim is concerned their trees are dying at an alarming rate. He said at least half of the pinon trees within a 5,000-acre radius are dead or dying. “Last year, you wouldn’t have seen nothing, anything like this,” said Heim. “I mean you would’ve seen a dead one here and there, more typical you’ll see a dead pinon every now and but like this no I’ve never seen anything like it. Most all of this happened this summer.”
The National Parks Service said they’re noticing more trees in the area dying and it could stem from the lack of rain and mountain pine beetle. Heim even points out a hole in one tree where it looks like a beetle got to it. “Yeah, they drill into it,” said Heim about the beetles. “If you were out at night you could hear some inside the trees, it’s a horrible sound.”
Heim and his neighbors worry all the dead trees threaten their safety. “Yeah if a lightning strike hits with the dead leaves on there, they’re just like a wick,” said Heim. “They’ll go right on up.” They are also concerned this problem will spread even further away from their subdivision. “It just keeps going,” said Heim. “It doesn’t really slow down, we see more dead every week.”
KRQE News 13 asked the Parks Service if they’re looking into ways to help the trees but didn’t get answers at the time.