Trees Burnt Down to the Roots in Widfires [Old Stumps]

Mick West

Staff member


In a video on Facebook, some people who seem to suspect the wildfire in Paradise was made with lasers are stumped by a hole in the ground. They can't understand why some trees seem to have burnt all the way down to the roots, leaving just a hole.

"What happened here" is not an unreasonable question, especially for city folk who might not be familiar with tree stumps, or burning wood. So I set out to investigate.

Firstly I found the location of the house in the video (Hillpark Lane), and the obvious thing was that you can see (in 2012, when these street-view images were taken) tree stumps where there are now holes in the ground, and you can see a live tree where there is now a burnt stump.

Metabunk 2018-12-13 10-27-05.jpg

So, old rotten stump burnt completely, newer stump burnt partially. This makes perfect sense if you look at some tree stumps. After a few years, they get rotten, and you can just poke them to pieces.
Metabunk 2018-12-13 10-31-20.jpg

Once dry (like at the end of the summer), those pieces will burn very easily.
Metabunk 2018-12-13 10-32-08.jpg

Where's all the ash in the hole? This video was taken after several inches of rain fell on Paradise, washing it all away, and eroding the hole some more.

So all we have here is some old rotten stumps burning away, leaving holes in the ground.
Last edited:
This is my first comment ever on this site. When I was young, I had built off of two stumps and two tree a fine treehouse. We smoked cigarettes (nasty habit I gave up years ago) during that time. One morning I woke up to the stump on fire from the inside out and the ground smoking. A lit cigarette had started the fire. That little ember smoldered until that root system ignited. And that’s not the only experience in root fires I have. Only my first.

Imagine waking up to your mom telling you your treehouse is smoking!
Stump holes are not some mysterious new phenomenon. Even a tree stump rotting away over years (or decades) can create unstable ground and a hole. Fire and/or heavy rain can reveal and extend the hole.
So mostly we get along just fine in our big treeless yard. Except. Whoever took out all the trees did not do a particularly thorough job of it (story of our house. Or at least any parts/projects not original to the house). What we have in our yard now in place of trees is a bunch of big, unexpected holes where there are rotting stumps that no one ever bothered to deal with.
Content from External Source

And while these holes are curiosities, they are certainly not unnatural, especially in this area (Northern California) where we get both fires and heavy rain in abundance (although not at the same time)
Metabunk 2018-12-15 10-09-17.jpg
This burned out stump holes is on the edge of a road. The burned roots extended under the road surface, making a weak area that may collapse.
Content from External Source

A burned out stump hole in the Stina Fire area. Hazards such as these led forest officials to implement area closures around the Stina Fire and Cat Fire earlier this month.
Content from External Source
Metabunk 2018-12-15 10-15-41.jpg
One of the dangers in hiking through burned forests is burned out stump holes. Photo taken by Jess Clark/USFS
Content from External Source