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Fire Salvage


We’ve shared tips about wildfire prevention, but what happens after a fire has ravaged the landscape? In this article, we’ll share strategies and tips to help landowners assess their damages, conduct a salvage harvest when appropriate, and take proper steps to ensure their forest for the future.

After a fire, the most essential concern is the safety of family and friends. Once everyone has been accounted for and is safe and well, it’s time to call your local AFM consulting forester. To the untrained eye, the effects of fire can be devastating; the ground and bark are black, and the needles are brown from the fire’s convective heat. This is why calling a consulting forester is so meaningful; to the landowner, it may seem like all hope is lost, but to the trained professional, the work is just beginning.

Time is of the essence after a fire, so your AFM forester will move quickly. First, they will assess the area and advise on tree survival, the risk of invasive insects, flooding and erosion potential, whether the trees are marketable, the timeframe for harvesting, etc. If a harvest is the plan of action, we must act promptly. Typically, mills pay lower prices for burnt wood, and the price continues to decrease as time goes on. This can be for any number of reasons, such as mill inventory and tree species. For instance, the pine species will turn “blue” when attacked by pine beetles, as the blue stain fungus travels with the pine beetle and stops the tree from producing its protective resin coating. There are many variables to how quickly a pine will turn blue, including the date of the fire, the average day and night temperatures after a fire, and how stressed the trees were before the fire. On average, landowners have 3-6 months to salvage pine, but some bluing can occur within weeks in certain areas. With other species like Douglas fir, grand fir, and cedar, landowners typically have 1-2 years to complete salvage work. It’s important to note that salvage logging can provide financial returns, but logging too much or too soon can lead to further complications. Your AFM forester will work for you to ensure that doesn’t happen, and they can help with the next steps after salvage logging.

After the harvest has been administered, non-commercial material has been treated, and the slash pile has been taken back into the woods or burnt, it’s time to plan for post-harvest activities. Some sites may allow for natural regeneration, depending on the species and seeds available on site. This is the most cost-effective option because seeds are free and adapted to the site. However, it’s still important to engage in fire prevention strategies like thinning and weed control. In other situations, reforestation happens artificially, meaning that trees are planted on-site. Reforestation can be costly in some cases, but government cost-share assistance and reforestation tax credits may be available to landowners. Your AFM forester is equipped to help you apply for these resources.

Once soil stabilization and grass seeding activities have occurred, trees can be planted or regrown naturally. These activities may include contour falling, staking logs or hay bales, or grass seeding to establish ground cover and prevent weed infestation. Weeds are difficult and cost-prohibitive to remove once established, so preventing them from taking root and jeopardizing the resource is crucial. Our foresters will also oversee erosion mitigation, road abandonment and maintenance, gate installation to keep visitors off the site, and more.

If your forest has been impacted by fire, it’s necessary to act swiftly. Your AFM consulting forester can advise you on tree survival, flooding and erosion potential, merchantable trees, and more. Let us come alongside you and partner with you. Reach out to us today for a complimentary assessment of preventative fire measures.