A dear friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about a crazy, random grass/forest fire that is running rampant through Flower Mound, in Denton County, TX. I immediately said my prayers for their safety, but then got to thinking and realized … there’s going to be a lot of trees damaged in this mess!
Trees are living creatures, and fire destroys everything, living or not! So I wanted to bring you this special, spur of the moment blog to help you better understand what happens when your tree goes through a fire, and what you need to do RIGHT NOW to help your tree recover effectively!
1st Check for Structural Damage –
think of a pipe… a pipe is one of the strongest structures on the planet, and yet it’s hollow! However, if a section of that pipe is damaged, it becomes very weak!
In the same way, most of a tree’s strength comes from that pipe-like outer layer, and the same with each of it’s branches. If a portion of the trunk or a section of the branch is damaged in this same way, even just a little, the tree can lose as much as 80% of it’s structural integrity!
If you see damage to the bark or trunk of your tree, don’t take a risk, call a professional to help you make the best decision here. Not all, but many Certified Arborists are trained in “Tree Risk Assessment” and can help you make the best decision about whether to keep or remove your tree.
2nd Identify What it Would Hit if the Tree Were to Fall or Break -
When assessing how much risk a tree is at failing, one of the most important things we try and identify is what type of damage would be caused if the tree were to break or fall.
A tree in the middle of a field or forest, where people rarely go is considered a low risk, however, if the tree that is in question is near a building or your house, or where you park your cars, or worse … where your family hangs out and plays, then obviously it is considered a MUCH riskier tree!
Prioritize trees that around these key areas (basically where people and property are located), and make sure you get professional help from a certified arborist or other qualified professional if you have any questions!
3rd Repair Damaged Trees –
there are really 4 main things to do after a tree has been damaged by a fire:
- Water immediately - you want to saturate the area under the canopy and water to a depth of at least 12-15". Fire dries out soil and tree tissue very quickly, so the most important and urgent thing to do after your tree has suffered fire damage is to replenish that moisture.
You’ll want to saturate at least the first 12”-15” of soil with water, which will take a bit of time.
Use a soaker hose laid out in a grid pattern (about 2' apart) all underneath your tree's canopy (to the dripline at least). Turn it on, and leave it there to do its job for about 24 hours, which should be enough to restore the water in the soil, and allow the tree to get a nice big drink.
Continue watering throughout the winter and give it a little bit more during the growing season; at least 2”-4” of water each week!
- Prune Away Dead Limbs – because I’m writing this during the middle of winter, chances are you won’t be able to tell if a limb is dead or not, unless it has been scorched. When the trees all “leaf out” again in spring, give them a good thorough check through to see if any branches have died as a result of the fire.
Often, when a tree limb dies quickly, it can become a pathway directly into the rest of the tree through the dead limb, so prune it off quickly! As always, be sure and hire a qualified Certified Arborist to help you with the job if it requires getting off of the ground, or the limb is around anything or anyone that can get damaged or hurt.
- Protect the Trunk! – often, when limbs are lost, or even leaves are lost from fire damage, the trunk below that used to be shaded is now at the mercy of the full force of the sun! Believe it or not, trunk and branch tissue can literally get sunburns, known as sunscald.
Wrap areas that are now exposed to the sunlight that were not before, with a canvas wrap (here’s my favorite - http://bit.ly/2ryRM9e) or apply a wound dressing that can block the sun’s rays like Cut Guard brand wound dressing (http://bit.ly/2mYsnRB)
- Fertilize, Fertilize, Fertilize! I always talk about how vitally important is to fertilize a tree annually, but now that your tree has gone through all this trauma, it is VITALLY important to do so, as the tree will require extra resources to repair the internal and external damage from the fire! Realistically you will need to fertilize your tree over the next 3-5 years, and probably even more after that (make sure you are consulting with a well-qualified arborist on this one)
Your best bet is to have a well-qualified Certified Arborist to perform what’s called a “deep root injection” fertilization as this method is the best at getting nutrients and medicine directly to the trees roots and keeping the grasses from stealing what you just put down.
If hiring a pro to fertilize is simply not in the budget, make sure you at least get a good organic fertilizer that DOES NOT contain any “weed n’ feed” chemicals. These “all-in-one” fertilizers contain broad-leaf killers, and guess what …. Your deciduous tree is probably a broad leaf plant!
Winter is the best time to fertilize because it allows the tree to use the nutrients throughout the entire growing season, so don’t delay on this one!!
Please know that if you’re impacted by this wildfire in any way, my heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to you for safety and for a quick recovery, but if you need help caring for your trees afterwards, don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally at the number below!
My Best, Always,