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Fire assessment team at work

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

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 fire effects 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. Forest roads including the 6S11 road are a concern from 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 a large fire. The loss of natural vegetative cover allows water to runoff across bare soils with increased velocity.

Fire also induces water repellency of 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. Road storm proofing, storm patrol and culvert cleaning may be recommended.

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 values are at risk occur on private lands. They will be completing this assessment for the Sky and Corrine fire, which burned 1,420 acres in both private and forest lands last week.

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- Sierra National Forest

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