The town of Kamsack has been shaken by an outbreak of Dutch elm disease.

Fourteen of the elm trees have already been chopped down and six more will be lost to the disease, according to Mayor Nancy Brunt.

Inspectors discovered the outbreak in July. It was concentrated in a four block radius in the town of fewer than 2,000 residents.

"It's unimaginable," Brunt said. "To lose one or two trees ... it hurts, but it's not unexpected given the fact that Dutch elm is moving into our province. To lose 20 trees is just too difficult to even think about."

The disease was spread by a few individuals who brought elm wood into the town, according to Brunt and town administrator Laura Lomenda. The province would not confirm that infected wood transferred the disease to the elms in Kamsack.

A spokesperson for the Environment Ministry said, judging by the number of trees infected, the disease likely showed up a few years ago but went undetected. The longer a tree carries the disease the better the chance it will spread Dutch elm to healthy trees.

Buying, selling, transporting or using elm firewood is illegal in the province, because it's one of the main ways the disease is spread.

The suspected culprits have been reported to provincial authorities, but the province did not say whether or not individuals are being investigated, nor what disciplinary action might be taken against them.

elm-bark-beetle

Burning the wood from infected elm trees leads to the spread of the elm bark beetle, which carries Dutch elm disease. (City of Winnipeg )

Brunt said she was "devastated" when she learned how many trees had been infected.

"The elm trees in Kamsack are part of the beauty of our town," she said. 

"They were planted many years ago all over the town. They provide a gorgeous canopy of leaves and shade."

In fact, the abundance of elms in Kamsack and fears about Dutch elm disease in the province prompted a tree inspection in the town earlier in the summer.

"We were being proactive in having a company come in and test our trees. And as soon as they started testing they found it," Brunt said.

More trees could have been affected, if not for the inspection, according to Brunt, but she worries about what the future may hold.

"You see lots that are empty where there used to be a tree," she said.

"You see big spaces and gaps between two trees and you can't help but wonder: There was a tree or two trees taken down and there's one left, is that tree going to be taken down next year? And will the street be completely empty?"