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Grand County cops: Beware falling beetle-kill trees

Everybody who lives in Grand County, Colorado, is well aware of the increased potential of wildfires because of the ongoing pine beetle epidemic. As the hundreds of thousands of local trees die, their pine needles and wood are becoming tinder dry.

However, another peril from this vast “die-off” that many don’t realize is the potential danger from collapsing trees.

With its sap no longer flowing, a dead tree’s trunk, branches and root system dry out and become brittle. A strong wind, heavy snow or even a tree’s own dead weight will eventually cause limbs to break off and/or the tree to fall over.



This situation became more than just potential peril as a Grand Lake-area man recently learned when he narrowly escaped serious injury or even death when a beetle-killed tree collapsed and fell on him as he was walking down a road.

On Saturday afternoon, Oct. 11, Deputy Jeff Oehlkers was on patrol when a Grand County Sheriff’s dispatcher radioed that an accident with injuries had just occurred on County Road 443. The dispatcher told him a tree had just fallen on a man at that location.



Rushing to the scene, Deputy Oehlkers found the injured man, 61-year-old Kelley McGuiness, sitting on the edge of the ditch beside the road. Several neighbors were also present to help.

McGuiness told Deputy Oehlkers that he was just walking down the road when he heard a “loud snap” behind him and then caught a glimpse of the tree as it crashed down on top of him. The tree struck him on the back, knocking him to the ground.

Neighbor Jeffy Pound confirmed the story. He was in his house nearby when he reported hearing a loud noise. Looking outside, he saw McGuiness lying under the tree on the road.

Also on scene was Christopher Baer of the Grand County Road and Bridge Department who had been dispatched to clear the road of the fallen tree, but found that McGuiness had already cut and removed most of the fallen tree by the time he arrived. Although he initially looked fine, Baer said McGuiness began complaining about back pain and sat down on the edge of the ditch.

A Grand County EMS ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and its paramedics began checking out McGuiness’ injuries, which appeared to be minor. He refused transport to the Granby Medical Center.

McGuiness told Deputy Oelkhers that he had previously talked to the owner of property about the dead trees on his land. Baer also told the deputy that he was going to follow up on the ownership of the property, which is for sale, about the hazard of its dead trees.


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