Assessing wildfire damages, BAER teams answer immediate emergencies

GRANTS PASS, Ore.– Many of this season’s wildfires have been knocked down but that doesn’t mean the job is done. Even after flames are out, there are still many other issues a fire can cause if not taken care of.

In order to address and resolve any potential threats before they happen, the U.S. Forest Service has developed a three-step process to assess damaged areas after wildfires with the help of several other agencies.

Listed below are the three phases and what they aim to do:

  1. Fire Suppression Repair – Immediate post-fire actions to repair damages or minimize potential threats such as soil erosion which can lead to mudslides or flooding. This work involves repairing hand and dozer lines, roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points used while fighting the fire.
  2. Emergency Stabilization/Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) – Rapid assessments of burned areas to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to “critical values” of the Forest Service. Those include human life and safety, property, and natural and cultural resources such as threatened and endangered species habitats. If needed, immediate emergency action is taken to stabilize areas before any major storms arrive.
  3. Long-Term Recovery and Restoration – Non-emergency actions that improve fire-damaged lands that may not recover naturally. This involves reforestation, planting or seeding, monitoring fire effects, replacing burned fences and many others repairs.

For the Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires, a team of about 30 specialists ranging from botanists to geologists to soil scientists are in the second phase of BAER assessment of burned lands of about 20,000 acres.

“The BAER team is a group of specialists that come towards the tail end of the fire and we assess some of those risks as a result of the fire,” said Kyle Wright, BAER team leader for the Klondike and Taylor Creek fires.

While each phase is important to ensure safety for those who use these lands, the BAER teams are key in ensuring restoration of the forests go smoothly. Initial assessments are already showing that there were low severity burns over both of the two fires meaning the chance for a natural restoration is pretty high. But there are still some areas that need addressing and BAER teams are prepared to solve them.

“There are still some areas with moderate and high that we focus on,” said Joni Brazier, BAER coordinator from Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. “So that’s one of the parts with the BAER effort is we really narrow down our focus on those really high risk areas and propose treatments for those areas.”

The team expects to wrap up it’s assessments by the end of the week. Once submitted, emergency restoration can begin if needed otherwise the process will move on to step three.


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