EAGLE CREEK FIRE BAER UPDATE
September 29, 2017
Hood River, Oregon - The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team assigned to the Eagle Creek Fire has been busy since arriving on September 25, 2017. Scientists on the team have been collecting data to identify imminent post-fire threats to values including life, property, natural resources, and cultural resources.
BAER Team members took a reconnaissance flight to get an overview of the fire, terrain, and soil burn severity. On the ground, team members are pairing up to validate soil burn severity and visit areas identified as potentially having values at risk. Soils scientists are examining the unburned and burned soil structures to identify erosion concerns and the potential for increased water runoff. Geologists are looking at areas where landslides and rockfalls could could potentially endanger people or impact roads, structures, recreation facilities, streams, and other resources downhill.
Engineers are checking roads for areas likely to fail during the winter rains. Hydrologists are examining culverts and bridges to see whether they are capable of handling increased volumes of water, plus rocks and woody debris carried by the water. A botanist is looking at areas with invasive plants and identifying areas within the fire perimeter where non-native plants are likely to get established or spread, affecting the native plants and animals.
Recreation specialists are looking at impacts to hiking trails and campgrounds, plus related improvements such as restrooms and shelters. An archaeologist is considering potential post-fire damage to historic sites including Hwy. 30 and structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. A fisheries biologist will be joining the team to look at the hazards to fish populations and habitat.
Information collected in the field is being shared and discussed among the different disciplines. Many of the problems being identified involve more than one specialty. For example increased runoff due to soil damage can contribute to a debris flows, which may travel down to a stream. The soil, rocks, and wood in a debris flow can impact a stream and any structures downstream. It could also threaten the lives of anyone in its path.
After the BAER Team members have collected the field data, they will develop a list of potential problems and the hazards they pose. Problems that create imminent hazards to values at risk will be identified, and possible treatments will be identified.