Fire in California
University of California
Fire in California

Forest Recovery

The aftermath of wildfires can be a difficult time. Although you may feel that the worst has happened, it is timely landscape recovery is CRITICAL to preventing future problems.

Look below for more detailed information about your region.

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Landscape Triage: “What should I do now?”

Before the Rains

While many burnt native plants will recover, winter storms can cause significant damage to soils and watersheds. Loss of vegetation weakens the topsoil and exposes it to erosion risk from wind and rain. Burned trees may also be weakened and be at greater risk of falling on critical structures or persons. To prevent further damage, take the following steps:

  • Assess Resource Damage: Once the fire is out, the first step is to assess the damage. Future actions such as erosion control, salvage harvesting, and replanting depend on the amount of damage caused by wildfire.
  • Minimize Erosion: Exposed bare soil can rapidly wash into waterways and create slides if left untreated. Timing is critical to minimizing erosion after wildfire, and various techniques are available to help stabilize your soil before the onset of the wet season.
  • Remove Hazard Trees: Burned trees may be killed outright and create hazardous conditions, or may be stressed and host secondary bark beetle and fungal infections. While salvage logging may be an unavoidable necessity to reduce hazard after a fire, wildlife habitat and weed control are also important considerations. Consult with a local Registered Professional Forester (RPF), Resource Conservation District (RCD), or UC Cooperative Extension Advisor for help.

Long Term Rehabilitation

  • Site Rehabilitation: It is as crucial to properly prepare a site as it is to follow up with maintenance. This often involves removing debris, breaking up compaction, and controlling weeds to help trees get established. Weed control gives trees a few years’ advantage over competing vegetation, allowing trees to predominate on the site once again.
  • Replant Trees Where Needed: If the fire was large and killed most conifers, you may need to replant to get back a forest like the one that was there before the fire. In oak systems, trees resprout and may not need to be replanted.
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