Forests still hazardous even after flames die

Our Northwest wildfires are dwindling, and eventually they’ll smother under the first heavy snowfall. But woodland danger remains for hikers, hunters, and anyone else who walks through burned forests.
     Washington’s Department of Natural Resources has published a post-wildfire warning that highlights three dangers in particular: ash pits, black trees, and green-top trees.
     When fire consumes trees, stumps, and roots, ash pits remain. The ash might look like solid ground, but it’s flimsy and vacuous. If you step on ash you could stumble into an ash pit and suffer burns from embers that smolder for weeks after a wildfire.
     Beware of standing black trees, especially conifers like fir and hemlock. Though killed by flames, they’ll remain upright before toppling over three to five years after a fire. Be alert, especially in strong winds.
     Surviving green-top trees – those with charred trunks and limbs but green crowns – might look healthy, but they too can collapse starting three years after a wildfire, aided by parasitic-bug infestations.
     Bottom line: when walking through the woods, be alert, and detour around hazards.

by  Jon Osterberg

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