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3 Ways to Manage and Save Trees After Wildfires


Wildfires are raging across California. If you have a residence or other property in the affected areas, the trees on your property can become dangerous during and after a wildfire. Here are three ways to manage your residential or ranch trees after wildfire strikes.

1. Have Trees Assessed for Damage

Wildfire harms trees in many ways. When leaves at the crown, or top of the tree, are burned away, the tree can't use sunlight and resources to feed itself. Blackened branches overheat in sunlight and the tissue inside dies.

If more than 50 percent of bark around the circumference of a tree trunk is charred, the tree is at risk of toppling over. Burnt and dried-out roots cause trees to lose their stability, so trees located where soil has burned away are at risk of falling over too.

Schedule a tree service to inspect any fire-ravaged trees on your property. In many cases, trees can be saved even with crown, trunk, and branch damage. Larch and Ponderosa pine trees can sustain a higher amount of scorching of stems and stay alive.

Your tree service inspects the:

  • Soil condition

  • Needles or leaves

  • Buds

  • Bark

  • Roots

  • Cambial layer

The condition of the above tree parts and the overall health of the tree before the fire are two factors that help predict each tree's survival after fire.

2. Help Trees Make It Through

If you aren't sure about the safety of trees after a wildfire, avoid walking or working around and under the trees. Let your tree service bring in the equipment to remove hazardous, leaning, and deeply burned trees.

After your tree service removes dangerous trees, you can care for the trees you wish to save without having a severely burnt tree fall on you. Trees that have a chance are trees that will often save themselves. You just need to lend the trees a hand.

The first thing to do is water your tree well. If leaves are singed or consumed during the growing season, the tree may try to grow brand new leaves. Water is needed to produce the leaves and move vital fluids up and down the tree trunk.

If soil is compacted around a tree's roots because the fire consumed the top layers of ground, you may need to add amendments to soil. Your tree service or landscape company can gently till and mix in the soil amendments to help feed the wounded tree.

3. Schedule Pruning for Fire-Damaged Trees

A tree-service professional knows the level and type of pruning your trees need to endure. One factor is the type of fire your property experienced.

There are three types of wildfires, which are:

  1. Crown fires consuming trees and soil

  2. Lethal understory fires consuming trees and soil

  3. Surface fires consuming shrubs but not trees

Any of these types of fires will damage some or all limbs and branches. Large, blackened limbs and branches are hazards that could fall at any time on cars, people, or your roof.

Lower tree limbs that have been singed in a fire provide pathways for insects and fungal diseases. Dead and burned lower limbs on trees should be removed flush with the tree trunk to protect the tree from infestation. Deciduous trees may sprout new stems where old branches were. Conifers will not regrow lowertrunk branches.

If you have woodland property or enough space, you can see if a beloved tree's roots will push up new suckers from the leftover stump. Tree species that sprout from roots include:

  • Aspen

  • Black locust

  • Crabapple

  • Birch

  • Giant sequoia

  • Poplar

  • Maple

In some cases, the tree may be viable if you remove all other suckers and shoots. In urban locations, large self-suckering trees may be less desirable. Ask your tree service for recommendations of replacement tree species that will work in your landscape.

Contact Imperial Tree to schedule a tree inspection or emergency services after wildfire in the Campbell and San Jose, California regions. As soon as authorities give the okay to enter your neighborhood, we help you clean up the mess from wildfires and restore your landscape.