Federal Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team
Incident: Thomas Fire Wildfire
The Federal Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team has evaluated soil conditions across the entire Thomas Fire and worked with the US Geologic Survey to create debris flow hazard maps. Our team has also determined the increases in stream flow and surface erosion expected. This information is being and will continue to be used to assess risk to life, property and natural and cultural resources on the Los Padres National Forest from erosion, sedimentation, flooding, and debris flows. Trails, roads, campgrounds, archeological sites, and threatened and endangered species may be impacted by these events. The BAER team has also provided this information to the California Watershed Emergency Response Team (WERT) to help them assess risks to homes, roads, and other infrastructure outside the National Forest Boundary. Both the BAER and WERT teams are currently embedded with the Santa Barbara and Ventura Office of Emergency Services to assist them in implementing response plans for communities downstream of the fire. Other agencies working with the BAER team include NOAA Weather, FEMA, California Office of Emergency Services, Natural Resource Conservation Service, city governments, and other officials.
The first large storm of the season has reached the Thomas Fire burn area last night and will continue throughtout today and is forecasted to reach rainfall intensities up to 4 inches per hour and has currently caused flooding and debris flows in the low lying lands of Santa Barbara County. Because debris flows move at up to 50 mph, they can unexpectedly and suddenly arrive along the lower stream reaches. It is extremely important for everyone in the hazard areas to know these risks, continue to pay attention to the weather forecast, and know your route to higher ground. Unless you are in a low lying area, sheltering in place may be your best option, since roads throughout the urban areas could be flooded. Do not drive across any flooded area as debris flows are very powerful and may flip a vehicle even when flows are only a foot deep.