Bark Beetle Emergency

Dead, diseased and dying trees pose an extreme fire hazard.

The Perfect Fire Starter ...

  • Overstocked forest
  • Prolonged drought
  • Bark beetle infestation

Tree Mortality

The San Bernardino National Forest is experiencing significant drought-related vegetation mortality that is exacerbated by bark beetle infestation, increasing the danger of a catastrophic fire in the San Bernardino Mountains.


Before the late 1800s, frequent wildfires cleared the forest undergrowth, keeping the forest open and park-like. However, more than one hundred years of fire suppression and a lack of forest management have allowed more vegetation to grow and survive than the ecosystem can support. This, combined with the prolonged drought, resulted in too many plants and trees competing for too little moisture, leaving the trees highly susceptible to attack by bark beetles and other parasites.


Extreme Fire Danger

The low moisture content of live vegetation makes it less resistant to fire.

Because of these conditions — drought, overgrowth and bark beetle infestation — tens of millions of trees in the local mountains have died in recent years. These dead, diseased and dying trees pose an extreme fire hazard.


Although bark beetles are indigenous to this region and are an integral part of ecosystem, trees weakened by nearly a decade of drought are unable to produce enough sap to expel the beetles.






A stand of trees infested by bark beetles can die in a matter of weeks.

For more information, go to: Bark Beetles of the Southern California Forests

In addition, the low moisture content of the live vegetation makes it less resistant to fire, turning it into “green fuel” and contributing to the fire danger.


Tree Removal

It is critical to have dead, diseased and dying trees removed immediately to prevent the bark beetle infestation from spreading to healthy trees. For information on the removal of dead trees, go to the Hazardous Tree Removal section of this website.


Thinner Forest

MAST is also urging property owners to thin live trees and vegetation to reduce green and ladder fuels. For more information, go to the Healthy Forest section of this website.


State of Emergency

In 2003, Gov. Gray Davis proclaimed a State of Emergency to exist within Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.


This emergency situation of imminent fire danger is caused by the extraordinary number of dead, dying and diseased trees resulting from prolonged drought, overstocked forests and infestation by bark beetles and other decay organisms; and the United States Forest Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency have directed funding to assist in fuel removal and forest health improvement; and


In cooperation with other appropriate state and local entities, expedite the clearing of dead, dying and diseased trees and other vegetation that interfere with emergency response and evacuation needs;


Redirect existing resources to assist landowners by giving forest stewardship advice and oversight of tree removal.


Defensible Space — It’s the Law

To help combat the imminent fire danger, the California Legislature has mandated a 100-foot defensible space around houses and other structures.


In January 2005, a new state law — Public Resources Code 4291 — became effective. The law extended the defensible space clearance around homes and structures from 30 feet to 100 feet.


Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of your house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire.


For more information, go to the Defensible Space section of this website.



Working together, we can prevent catastrophic wildfires.