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Assessing The Damage On Recent Fires

EASTERN MADERA COUNTY – A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team for the Sky and Corrine Fire is working to complete its assessment and recommendations to lessen immediate hazards to public resources from the effects of the fire.

The team is led by geologist Alan Gallegos from the Sierra National Forest.

The BAER team is made up of specialists from various disciplines; including hydrologist, soil scientists, road engineers, botanists, and archaeologists.

Team members have already started assessing the fire area to address potential values at risk related to life and property, water quality and critical plant and archaeological resources.

The purpose of the BAER assessment is to analyze the effects of fire on soils and watersheds, determine the potential for negative effects, and consider possible treatment options. The potential threat to life and property are always the number one concern and is the first focus of the burned area assessment, say officials. Forest roads, including the 6S11 road, are a concern because of potential flood flows damaging the road.

Soil productivity, water quality, and cultural resources are also potential values at risk when wildfire burns through an area followed by large storms, particularly during the first and second year following the fire. The loss of natural vegetative cover allows water to run off across bare soils with increased velocity.

Fire also causes the soil to repel water to varying degrees, reducing water infiltration and increasing runoff. The net result under extreme conditions is a loss of soil, a loss of water control, and significant risk of flooding and debris flows downstream of the fire.

BAER treatments may be recommended if values at risk have potential to be damaged, including road storm proofing, storm patrol and culvert cleaning. Treatments may also prevent permanent loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species, and the spread of noxious weeds.

Interagency coordination is necessary where downstream risk occurs on private lands.The team will be completing this assessment for the Sky and Corrine fires, which burned 1,420 acres in both private and forest lands.

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