By Lemor Abrams

AUBURN (CBS13) — Cal Fire is warning fire season is creeping up and will return with a vengeance after California’s drought killed millions of trees.

Fire officials are warning that those drought-damaged trees pose an even greater threat than ever.

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Images of the Fresno County foothills show the spread of dying trees, and the reason Cal Fire has hired hundreds of new firefighters just to start fuel reduction.

In 2013, the Rim Fire burned tens of thousands of acres in the Stanislaus National Forest. It was in the middle of California’s devastating drought when an estimated 3 million trees died off.

Fast forward a few years into the drought. The dry weather and destructive bark beetles have killed off 29 million trees across California. In Auburn, recent rains have made way for lush green hillsides, but a close look reveals pockets of brown trees. Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says the tree die-off continues to move north.

“Further into Amador County, El Dorado County, and Placer and we continue to work with those counties to provide help for the homeowner,” he said.

It’s a race against time to get to the trees before they become more dangerous.

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“This is not just a fire threat, it’s a public safety threat on a very large scale,” he said.

Crews have been aggressively removing the dead trees, but for each one on the road, there are seemingly thousands left to cut down.

Still, park ranger Scott Liske says it hasn’t stopped tourists from coming out to take in the beauty.

“Some people are really passionate about the trees, you know we have those incredibly large sequoias,” he said.

Cal Fire will do another aerial survey this summer to see how much worse the die-off gets by then.

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Meanwhile, now is the time to focus on defensible space around your property, says Cal Fire.