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In The Two Towers Saruman's base at Isengard comes under attack from Treebeard and the Ents. They devastate Saruman's facility. Saruman looks out ineffectually from his tower Orthanc.

Later in The Return of the King (extended edition) Saruman becomes enraged and uses a fireball spell to attack Gandalf The White.

Given that he can cast this kind of spell, why did Saruman not use fire magic to combat the Ents?

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Perhaps the fireball only works at close range, and he wanted/needed to stay at the top of the tower (for a better strategic overview, to keep some defense systems running, to inspire his troops)? Perhaps a fireball does damage but isn't capable of setting things on fire unless they're really flammable, and a living tree is not (there might be a lot of liquid flowing through its body)?

You see several Ents in the battle which do catch fire (because of fiery arrows or other non-magic flame), so it's not like his army didn't employ it.

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    To add to this, it appeared that Sarumon was mostly in shock and had no intention on taking an offensive stance against the Ents himself. With the entirety of his army gone, there are serious reservations that Sarumon alone could have made a significant impact on the Ent's assault. – Charles Aug 9 at 2:20
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Saruman makes no effort to defend Isengard

If we examine the scene of the Entish invasion of Isengard, we see that Saruman actually does nothing to muster any defense. He is shown several times just watching the disaster from a balcony on Orthanc.

This may be because he realizes the situation is hopeless

Saruman's army is away at Fort Eorlingas, with only a token crew of Orcs left behind at Isengard. They are hopeless to repel the Ents. Saruman cares nothing for his troops and makes no attempt to lead, organise, or defend them.

The Orc strategy of using fire on the Ents was nullified

We do see an Ent on fire during the battle sequence, but the fires are quenched and the Ent saved when the Ents break the dam.

TL;DR Saruman locks himself in Orthanc with a view to talking his way out later

One of Saruman's greatest weapons is the sorcery of his persuasive voice and his mastery of diplomacy. Any aggression against the Ents makes this less likely to succeed (though he does of course attack Gandalf the White once provoked).

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