This month’s inferno that blasted north down Bear Creek left a swath of destruction that left me speechless. By sheer dumb luck I didn’t lose anything, but sadly, many lost everything. The firestorm fueled by 50 mph wind was short lived, but the temperatures generated were hotter than hell.The flame front damage stayed relatively close to the ground, and it appears that the fire damage to the trees was limited to about 25 feet up, for the most part.
Evergreen conifers that had crown fires were destroyed in total, and will not survive. Broad leaved hardwoods, while not fully consumed, were subjected to such extreme heat, that the moist layer beneath the bark had literally boiled.
Assessing fire damage will be difficult at this time, but safe to say if more than 1/3 of the cambium layer has been lost, some tough decisions will have to be made.
I would stress that EVERY effort should be made to save what we can, since the effects of loss of canopy coverage will complicate reforestation attempts.
Some trees, while not killed outright, may be structurally unsound down the road, and should be inspected by a competent arborist.
Leaving habitat trees will be most important, and reducing the load on the anchorage and leaving the stem will benefit the housing requirement needed by all the cavity nesting birds and mammals that are going to need a place to live.
Time will tell, I guess, but if a tree isn’t threatening cleanup efforts or rebuilding, I would say to wait until next spring before making any decisions concerning removal.
The magic number for tree survival after a fire seems to be 5-7 years before things start to settle down and level out. After cleanup efforts have been made will be the time for replanting, and thought should be given then to much needed reforestation.
Consideration to rebuilding under large, standing, but damaged trees should be a primary concern as cost of removal after a valuable target is constructed underneath will greatly increase costs associated with that endeavor.
If there is a bright side to all this tragedy, it must be the fact that people seem to pull together and help each other out. Let me know if I can offer any assistance or advice. Be well, plant high and often!