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Ford County

Care for Trees Damage by Wildfires

Andrea Burns, Ford County Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources

The recent fires that affected Ford County have left a devastating path of destruction in their wake. Wildfire can affect trees in residential landscapes in a variety of ways. They can be completely or partially consumed, scorched and dried out, or merely singed. Many trees can recover after fire, depending on the intensity and duration of the burn and extent of dehydration.

After a fire, it is important to determine which trees might recuperate and which will need to be removed. Fire directly damages trees in a number of ways:

  • leaf or needle scorch
  • root damage
  • trunk or branch damage
  • inner tissue (cambium) injury
  • bud death

This time of year, the trees are just beginning to bud and have not leafed out yet. Other less direct impacts include soil desiccation or water-repellent (hydrophobic) soils. Trees unable to obtain adequate soil moisture after a fire are less likely to survive. Fire-damaged and water-stressed trees are also more susceptible to bark beetle attacks.

Different types of trees vary in how readily they burn and whether they can survive a fire. Fire intensity and length of exposure are important factors in tree response. The growth stage of the tree can influence whether or not it can survive. Trees starting to grow in the spring are more susceptible to fire damage than dormant trees. Evergreen trees are high in oils and waxes and have a greater burn potential than most deciduous trees, which have lower oil and wax content. In summer, deciduous trees usually have a higher moisture content than evergreens. Chemical components vary in a plant depending on the time of year and the species.

With some of the trees that were just scorched in the fires and not completely destroyed, homeowners might want to take a wait and see approach before removing the tree. Extra water will also help the trees to recover from the roots up.

Please be careful with open flames outdoors and continue to lift up emergency response personnel and those affected by these devastating fires.