What Is BAER? Burned Area Emergency Reponse
Incident: Mountain Wildfire
While many wildfires cause minimal damage to the land and pose few threats to the land or people downstream, some fires result in damage that requires special efforts to reduce impacts afterwards. Loss of vegetation exposes soil to erosion; water run-off may increase and cause flooding. Soil and rock may move downstream and damage property or fill reservoirs putting community water supplies and endangered species at-risk.
The Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program is a rapid assessment of burned watersheds by BAER teams to identify unacceptable post-fire threats and implement emergency treatments to reduce unacceptable risks to identified Values at Risk (VAR). It is designed to address these risks through its objectives of protecting human life, safety, property, and critical natural and cultural resources on federal lands. BAER is a program for emergency stabilization work that involves time-critical activities to be completed before the first damaging rain event or first major storm.
The BAER team is currently working to complete its assessment and recommendations to less immediate hazards (threats) to public resources from effects of the fire.
Like other members of the response to the Mountain Fire, many BAER team members are from out of the area. The BAER team is made up of specialists from various disciplines such as Hydrologists, Soil Scientists, Biologist and Botanist among others.
Multiple agencies work with the BAER team and look at the full scope and scale of the situation to reduce the potential threats to life and property. The Forest Service and Department of Interior BAER teams are working closely to ensure that this BAER effort is seamless in addressing all affected lands. It is important to remember that BAER treatments cannot prevent all of the potential flooding or soil erosion impacts, especially after wildfires change the landscape. So it is important that the public is informed and prepared for potential increased run-off or flooding events.
One of the most effective BAER strategies is interagency coordination with local cooperators who assist affected businesses, private homes, and landowners prepare for rain storms. The Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Riverside County Office of Emergency Services (OES) work together and coordinate with other federal and local agencies, and counties that assist private landowners in preparing for potential increased run-off or flooding.
Federal assistance to private landowners is the primary responsibility of the NRCS through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.
BAER assessment plans and implementation of the prescribed emergency response actions are a cooperating and coordinated effort between many federal agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) NRCS, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Tribal Governments, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers, also including state, tribal governments, local agencies, and emergency management departments.
BAER treatments such as the installation of erosion and runoff water control devices; temporary barriers to protect recovering areas; warning signs; and drainage features for increased flow may be implemented. BAER work may also replace safety related facilities; remove safety hazards; prevent permanent loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species; and prevent the spread of noxious weeds.
It is important that BAER coordinates its assessment and treatment implementation with all affected and interested cooperating agencies and organizations.