Fire related tree damage can have a huge impact on your residential landscape. Depending on the intensity, duration, and type of fire, significant damage can occur to your beloved trees. Out-of-control fires can harm trees by completely consuming them or partially scorching them. The extent of damage varies depending on the type of tree, the time of year the fire occurred, and how hot and long it burned. If the fire damage to the tree occurred while the tree was dormant (early spring and fall) then the tree may make a full recovery.
While some trees may not survive the damage, fire-damaged trees can be rescued if promptly helped. Trees can recover, particularly if they were dormant when injured. Some may need to be removed if the tree is likely to fall and cause harm or damage to property should be removed immediately.
It is important to get damaged and destroyed trees assessed in a timely manner. Damaged trees will need to start immediate treatment if they are to be saved. Destroyed trees left on the property can be a breeding site for pests and disease, which may eventually lead to the weakened trees that were impacted by the fire.
Arbor Plant Health Care has certified consulting arborists to help you determine the extent of your tree damage by assessing the tree and help you decide what next steps should be taken to help care for your trees.
What should you look for?
- Check for burn damage and charring of the bark on the trunk and large branches. This will indicate that there may be damage to the tree’s vascular system below the bark.
- Check the burn damage of the soil directly surrounding and up to the tree. This indicates damage to the root zone of the tree.
- Observe the tree’s canopy by looking up at the leaves/branches. Do you think there is more than 60 – 70% of the canopy that has burned?
- Check the “V” spots on the tree – where two larger limbs connect or where a large limb connects with the trunk. If these areas have been burned, then they are weak.
If you notice any of the above burn patterns, then the tree can be a safety hazard. People should avoid these dangerous areas. Contact a certified arborist to have these trees pruned or removed entirely.
What can be done immediately to help your trees?
- Consult with professionals to determine if the trees can be saved or should be removed for safety reasons. Trees that have sustained damage from high intensity fires or have had severe crown damage are not likely to survive and should be removed by a professional in a timely manner. Weakened trees by fire are particularly susceptible to wood boring insects and fungi.
- Damaged trees that are likely to survive, require large amounts of water immediately after the fire. Water them thoroughly since the fire can dry out the trunk, roots and limbs and surrounding soil. Most of the tree’s roots are located 12 inches below the surface, so make sure the tree gets adequate water daily in the root zone. If a tree has a large canopy, the root zone extends to the same radius as the canopy, so the soil throughout this area needs to be kept moist – not just directly surrounding the trunk. The soil beneath the tree should remain moist throughout the growing season, and the watering should be slow and deep enough to reach the top foot or so of soil.
- Wrapping the trunk and major limbs with light-colored cloth, cardboard, or tree wrap can help protect them from sunburn until new growth emerges. Damaged canopies (or limbs with leaves) can no longer protect them from the sun.
- Have a professional revisit the site in the spring, when the tree is expected to push new growth. Most often, trees with partially scorched crowns will not show the impact of the fire until 1-3 years after the damage. A certified arborist will be able to determine the outlook for the tree, upon observing it during the first and second growth season after the fire damage.
How can we help?
Arbor Plant Health Care has a team of 5 certified arborists. They are trained to assess, remove and recover severely hazardous trees. They can determine whether the tree will recover or if it will need to be removed. They can also help design a plant health care regime to prevent infestation from insects and disease by using their Arborjet injection system and deep root fertilization air spade to strengthen weakened trees from fire damage. They can also determine and recommend which tree species are more fire resistant for your recovering and delicate landscape. They offer and provide full planting and transplanting services.
For additional information on fire related tree damage, visit these sites: