San Juan National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
15 Burnett Court
Durango, CO 81301
August 27, 2018
Press Contact: Karen Schroyer, 970-379-1203 or Kate Jerman, 970-945-3271
Forest Service releases Phase II of Lake Christine Fire BAER Assessment
BASALT, Colo. - Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) specialists completed and released the second phase of results for the northern part of the Lake Christine Fire burn area and finalized the Soil Burn Severity map. Over the past two weeks the BAER team, which consists of Forest Service scientists and specialists, validated satellite imagery with field findings to produce their assessment.
The U.S. Forest Service Geospatial and Technology and Applications Center provided the BAER team with an initial Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) map derived from satellite imagery that compares pre and post fire images. The team conducted reconnaissance and field verification surveys to adjust the BARC and create a final soil burn severity map.
“Our assessment found that a larger percentage of soil within this part of the fire area received prolonged exposure to intense heat,” said Steve Hunter, BAER coordinator for the White River National Forest. “The northern part of the burn area which consists of primarily conifer vegetation type, held high temperatures of heat for longer duration, damaging the soils in that area.”
The BAER post-fire assessment team uses the soil burn severity data to identify if there are areas of concern where increased soil erosion, accelerated surface water run-off, and debris flows have the potential to impact human life and safety, property, and critical natural and cultural resources from rain events.
Because 72% of the northern portion of the burned area experienced moderate or high soil burn severity, there is concern for run-off from steep hillslopes and resultant increases in post-fire erosion, flooding and debris flows. These post-fire effects could potentially impact Upper Cattle Creek Road, Basalt Mountain Road and Upper Cattle Creek in the future if a substantial storm event were to occur.
To help mitigate some of this risk, the BAER Team recommended a series of treatments on National Forest System Lands that include interagency coordination, administrative closures, emergency signage, road and trail stabilization including drainage improvements, noxious weed treatment, and stream health monitoring.
Within the next 1-2 years understory in this northern area of the fire is expected to recover fully; however, tree recovery will take longer and will likely require seeding or planting. While this portion of Basalt Mountain will take many years to fully recover, natural ecological processes are already underway and in some areas sprouting of new vegetation is already occurring.
Please keep in mind an emergency area closure remains in place for the Lake Christine Fire area due to ongoing firefighting operations and for public safety due to the high risk of snags and falling, dead trees.
“The closure area remains in place for public and firefighter safety,” said Karen Schroyer, District Ranger. “Next spring we will reevaluate the condition for Basalt Mountain Road and Upper Cattle Creek Road for potential reopening to the public along with associated trails in the area. Before we can open them we need to evaluate and mitigate the hazard tree risk.”
The White River National Forest will continue to provide information and participate in interagency efforts to address threats to public and private values at risk resulting from the Lake Christine Fire and will also continue to work with partners on long-term recovery efforts of this area.
For more information download the Lake Christine Fire soil burn severity BAER map (.pdf) or visit the White River National Forest BAER webpage: https://bit.ly/2oeojg9 . The map can also be downloaded at the interagency “Rocky Mountain Region-2018 Post-Fire BAER” InciWeb site as a JPEG or PDF version under the “maps” tab. Rocky Mountain Region 2018 Post-Fire BAER Assessment information is available at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5928 .
A "Field Guide for Mapping Post-Fire Soil Burn Severity" can help with interpreting the map and can be found online at http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_gtr243.pdf.
SPECIAL NOTE: Everyone near and downstream from the burned areas should remain alert and stay updated on weather conditions that may result in heavy rains over the burn scars. Flash flooding may occur quickly during heavy rain events. Current weather and emergency notifications can be found at the National Weather Service website: www.weather.gov/pub/.