Trees damaged by wildfires in Utah this summer are not necessarily chain-saw candidates.
Don't be in a hurry to saw them down. The same goes for shrubs and plants. The place to check for damage is in the buds, said Mike Kuhns, Utah State University Extension forester.From midsummer on, trees and shrubs should have well-formed buds on the twigs. Break open a bud and see if it is green and moist. If it is brown and dried out, it is most likely dead and will not grow next year, he said.
If buds are moist and healthy, the tree is probably fine, though this year's leaves may be slightly or severely damaged by flames.
"Check for severely burned areas on branches or the trunk," he said. "A dead trunk means a dead tree, despite the presence of seemingly healthy twigs or leaves."
Unfortunately, leaves burned by fire will most likely not be replaced this year. New leaves will form next year, however, if the buds, branches and trunk are healthy. "Evergreens that have had needles burned may take many years to regain a normal appearance, or they may never look normal," he said.
Unless it is certain a tree's recovery is not possible, or it poses a hazard, it's best to wait it out for several months to see what symptoms develop. "If you are unsure whether to remove a damaged tree, contact a qualified arborist for professional advice," he said.
For those who have had property devastated by wildfires this summer, now is a good time to assess landscaping and surroundings that may have allowed such fires to be fueled. It may mean trimming or removing remaining vegetation, he said.