Key Elements of The BAER Assessment
Incident: Rim Post-Fire BAER Burned Area Emergency Response
KEY ELEMENTS OF THE BAER ASSESSMENT
A Forest Service BAER assessment team has been established by the Stanislaus National Forest (www.fs.usda.gov/stanislaus) and is coordinating and working with the Yosemite National Park’s Department of Interior BAER assessment team Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal state and local agencies to strategically assess potential post-fire impacts to the watersheds in the burn area of the recent Rim Fire one of the largest fires in California.
§ The BAER assessment teams are evaluating watershed conditions to determine the level of potential risks to human life safety property natural and cultural-heritage resources and determine if there are appropriate and effective emergency stabilization measures that can be implemented on federal lands in a timely manner to reduce unacceptable risks from potential flooding and debris flow threats.
§ The BAER assessment team conducts field surveys and uses science-based models to rapidly evaluate and assess the burned area.
§ BAER assessment teams are staffed by specially trained professionals that may include: hydrologists soil scientists engineers biologists botanists archeologists and others who evaluate the burned area and prescribe temporary emergency response actions to protect the land quickly and effectively.
§ BAER assessments usually begin before a wildfire has been fully contained.
§ The BAER assessment team generates a “Soil Burn Severity” map by using satellite imagery which is then validated and adjusted by BAER team field surveys to assess watershed conditions and watershed response to the wildfire. The map identifies areas of soil burn severity by categories of low/unburned moderate and high which corresponds to a projected increase in watershed response.
§ The BAER team presents these findings and treatment recommendations to the Forest Supervisor in an assessment report that identifies immediate and emergency stabilization actions needed to address potential post-fire risks to human life and safety property cultural-heritage and critical natural resources.
§ The BAER report describes watershed pre- and post-fire response information areas of concern for human life safety and property and recommended short-term emergency stabilization actions for federal lands that burned.
§ In most cases only a portion of the burned area is actually treated. Severely burned areas steep slopes places where water run-off will be excessive fragile slopes above homes businesses municipal water supplies and other valuable facilities are focus areas and described in the BAER assessment report as values-at-risk.
§ The BAER assessment team and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work together and coordinate with other federal and local agencies and counties that assist private landowners in preparing for increased run-off and potential flooding.
§ Federal assistance to private landowners regarding post-fire potential impacts is the primary responsibility of the NRCS through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program (www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ca/programs/ cid=nrcs144p2_064025).
§ NRCS conducts damage survey reports for the private land adjacent to and downstream from the burned areas. NRCS uses these reports along with the BAER team’s assessment report to develop recommended emergency measures for businesses and private home and landowners to reduce the impacts to their property from potential increased water and mud flows.
§ If the BAER assessment team determines there may be potential emergency situations the short-term goal is to have flood and erosion control protection measures completed before large damaging rain events occur.
§ Timely implementation is critical if BAER emergency response actions are to be effective.