May 20, 2010 1:18 PM by Greg Boyce

Bark beetle infestation raises forest fire concerns

Gov. Bill Ritter says wetter-than-usual conditions have reduced the fire danger this year, but he says the state is ready if there is a major wildfire on the Western Slope.

Officials have warned that the continuing bark beetle infestation has left Colorado's high country at risk of a major fire.  National Guard Staff Sgt. Mark Belo says helicopters are on standby to head to the high country if residents need to be rescued.  The pine beetle epidemic, which hit Colorado in 1996, has spread to more than 3,000 square miles in the state.

The beetles burrow into trees to lay eggs, leaving behind a deadly fungus that rots out trees and makes them vulnerable to fire.


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