REDDING, California - Many forests depend on periodic fires to maintain healthy ecosystems. In these fire adapted areas, fire promotes plant diversity and burns away accumulations of live and dead plant material such as pine needles, leaves, branches, and smaller understory trees.
The 240 wildfires currently burning in Northern California that resulted from the July 30-31 lightning event are a reminder that Mother Nature continues to play a major role in forest ecosystems. As of August 26, the total acreage of Northern California federal lands burned from that lightning event has reached 205,951 acres. Aggressive fire suppression containment efforts by firefighters are gaining ground and recovery efforts are already underway in some areas.
Natural processes also play a major role in forest recovery after a wildfire. However, there are certain actions to protect California watersheds that can be taken immediately to speed the recovery of the burned areas and reduce sediment and soil erosion that flow downstream from these burned areas during fall and winter rains.
Suppression repair is the first phase of recovery efforts to return the affected area to pre-fire conditions. Controlling erosion and run-off from fire suppression containment lines are high priorities for the Forest Service to ensure healthy watersheds. Fire crews construct rolling dips and dirt water bars along hand and dozer lines to divert water off the containment lines and minimize surface and gully erosion. Crews also remove berms on dozer lines, scatter cut brush on hand and dozer lines, and repair roads used during the suppression of the fire to return those areas to a stable functioning condition to minimize water and soil erosion run-off.
Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams are being established by Forest Supervisors of the Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests to begin the second phase of recovery for the wildfires that burned on National Forest System lands. BAER team surveys are rapid assessments of the burned areas (separate from fire suppression repair crews) that evaluate the burned watersheds and determine the potential for increased post-fire flooding, sediment flows, and rock slides.
BAER teams analyze the data they collect during the surveys, to produce a “Soil Burn Severity” map. This is key to the assessment of potential watershed impacts from wildfires to any downstream values that may be at-risk from potential increased flooding, sediment flows, and rock slides. BAER teams produce a report that includes an assessment and findings for the burned areas’ post-fire conditions along with recommended emergency stabilization measures and actions. BAER emergency stabilization efforts are focused on the protection of human life, safety and property, and critical natural and cultural resource values such as the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams.
BAER teams consist of scientists and specialists such as hydrologists, geologists, soil scientists, road engineers, botanists, wildlife and fisheries biologists, archeologists, geographic information specialists, and silviculturists from federal and state agencies. BAER teams work together during their burned area surveys, field data analysis and modeling phase, to present findings along with recommended BAER treatments to the Forest Supervisors. BAER reports are shared with interagency cooperators who work with downstream private home and land owners to prepare for potential post-fire flooding and sediment flow impacts.
The third and longest stage of recovery of the burned areas is called long-term recovery and restoration. It has begun on both national forests by identifying environmental analysis leaders and teams, and gathering initial information and data provided to the forests by the fire suppression repair and BAER assessment teams during their burned area recovery efforts.
The public should plan and expect potential increased water and sediment flows from these burned areas to continue past the first year following the wildfires. The Forest Service expects the watershed recovery of the burned areas to continue for another three to five years.
To ensure their safety when downstream or visiting near these burned areas, residents and visitors are encouraged to monitor weather reports and be prepared for the continued increased water run-off and potential sediment flows.
“Northern California is a very beautiful area that both California residents and visitors enjoy and will continue to enjoy as we all work together with wildfire recovery efforts,” said Paige Boyer, U.S. Forest Service Assistant Director for Northern Operations.
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|Incident Type||Burned Area Emergency Response|