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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rim Fire: Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is working with Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park #CaFire

THREE PHASES OF THE RIM FIRE WILDFIRE REHABILITATION

SONORA CA (September 20 2013) – The Rim Fire started on August 17 and burned in steep rugged canyons on the Stanislaus National Forest and the Yosemite National Park. The wildfire increased the potential for increased flooding mud and debris flows that could impact ranches structures roads and other infrastructure within adjacent to and downstream from the burned area. Winter in the Sierra Nevada region can bring heavy rain storms and residents and visitors should remain alert to possible flooding when travelling along roads downstream from the burned area of the Rim Fire.


Update 9/30: Rim Fire CA-STF-002857 Tuolumne County 
257,135 acres, 89%, Type 3 IC Otterson/Singer
Log trucks are operating on state highways 108 and 120 and motorists are advised to use caution. Resources continue to monitor the fire in the Yosemite and Emigrant Wilderness areas.
Burned Watershed Warning Sign that was burned in the Rim Fire Credit: USFS-Chris Stewart
Burned Watershed Warning Sign that was burned in the Rim Fire
Credit: USFS-Chris Stewart
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is working with the Stanislaus National Forest (www.fs.usda.gov/stanislaus) to assess the condition of the watersheds that were burned in the Rim Fire. The BAER assessment team identifies potential emergency threats to critical values-at-risk and recommends emergency stabilization response actions that are implemented on federal lands to reduce potential threats.

There are three phases of rehabilitation following wildfires on federal lands:

  • Fire Suppression Repair
  • Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER)
  • Long-Term Recovery and Restoration
Fire Suppression Repair is a series of immediate post-fire actions taken to repair damages and minimize potential soil erosion and impacts resulting from fire suppression activities and usually begins before the fire is contained and before the demobilization of an Incident Management Team. This work repairs the hand and dozer fire lines roads trails staging areas safety zones and drop points used during fire suppression efforts.

Emergency Stabilization-Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is a rapid assessment of burned watersheds by a BAER team to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety property and critical natural or cultural resources on National Forest System lands and take immediate actions to implement emergency stabilization measures before the first major storms. Fires result in loss of vegetation exposure of soil to erosion and increased water runoff that may lead to flooding increased sediment debris flows and damage to critical natural and cultural resources. BAER actions such as: seeding mulching installation of erosion and water run-off control structures temporary barriers to protect recovering areas and installation of warning signs 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 and protect critical cultural resources.

Long-Term Recovery and Restoration utilizes non-emergency actions to improve fire-damaged lands that are unlikely to recover naturally and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the fire that are not critical to life and safety. This phase may include restoring burned habitat reforestation other planting or seeding monitoring fire effects replacing burned fences interpreting cultural sites treating noxious weed infestations and installing interpretive signs


PREPARING FOR RAIN STORMS
One of the most effective BAER strategies is interagency coordination with local cooperators who assist affected businesses homes and landowners prepare for rain events. The Forest Service 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 is administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program (www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/ ). NRCS works with local governments (sponsors) to implement emergency measures in the wake of natural disasters to safeguard lives and property. NRCSand the local sponsor prepare damage survey reports for eligible sites on private lands adjacent to and downstream from affected areas. NRCS uses these reports along with the BAER team’s assessment report to develop emergency measures to reduce the impacts from potential increased water and mud flows and assist sponsors to implement recommended emergency measures. (www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1045263.pdf ).
Multiple agencies work with BAER teams and look at the full scope and scale of the situation to reduce the potential threats to human life and safety and property; however BAER emergency stabilization actions on federal lands cannot prevent all of the potential flooding or soil erosion impacts especially after wildfires change the landscape.

It is important that residents take steps to protect themselves and their property from flooding and mudflows: For their safety communities need to monitor local weather reports and public safety bulletins local road closures emergency notifications weather alerts follow local county and city advisories and act accordingly.

  • Use a “weather radio” or smart phone “weather app” that monitors “all hazards” alerts issued by theNOAA-National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/).
  • Prepare for rainstorms by being prepared to evacuate if county or city emergency officials determine that flooding and mudflows are expected which could pose an increased threat to life and property.
  • Know and be alert to environmental signs of dangerous weather conditions and be prepared to take action that can save lives.
  • Understand that all canyons within the Rim fire area can produce flash flooding.
  • At first sign of a storm even if it’s not right over you the storm may be up-stream from your location or if you find yourself in a flood climb to safety (seek higher ground).
Resources to assist with Preparing for Flooding-Mudflows and Interagency Cooperator Information:

Local Counties
Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services (www.co.tuolumne.ca.us/index.aspx NID=308) promotes preparedness through its emergency services program to assist the county prepare for respond appropriately to and quickly recover from natural emergencies that may impact county residents. Tuolumne County communities can register to receive important notices and alerts during emergencies at www.co.tuolumne.ca.us/alertcenter.aspx and information regarding evacuation guidelines at www.co.tuolumne.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/751.
Mariposa County Office of Emergency Services (www.mariposacounty.org/index.aspx nid=215) promotes preparedness through its emergency services program to assist the county prepare for respond appropriately to and quickly recover from natural emergencies that may impact the county residents. Information regarding emergency preparedness is available at http://ca-mariposacounty.civicplus.com/index.aspx NID=239 and http://ca-mariposacounty.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/7121.

Mariposa County communities can register to receive important notices and alerts during emergencies at www.mariposacounty.org/alertcenter.aspx and cne.coderedweb.com/Default.aspx groupid=8DJt1b8jNYIUOdN58kLEjw%3d%3d.

State Agencies
The California Office of Emergency Services provides information emergency preparedness and about flood and storm preparation:
§ www.calema.ca.gov/PlanningandPreparedness/Pages/How-You-Should-Prepare.aspx
§ www.calema.ca.gov/PlanningandPreparedness/Pages/Floods.aspx.

The California Department of Water Resources provides information to the public regarding flood and safety:
§ www.water.ca.gov/nav/nav.cfm loc=t&id=100
§ www.water.ca.gov/floodmgmt/
§ www.water.ca.gov/floodmgmt/docs/state-federal_flood_operations_center.pdf.

Other Federal Agencies
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) – Sacramento District coordinates its Emergency Management program with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local governments to provide engineering services to respond to national and natural disasters in order to minimize damages and help in recovery efforts. Public Law 84-99 enables the Corps to assist state and local authorities in flood fight activities and cost share in the repair of flood protection structures. Public Law 93-288 authorizes FEMA to task the Corps with disaster recovery missions under the Federal Response Plan (www.usace.army.mil/Missions/EmergencyOperations/NationalResponseFramework/FloodControl.aspx).

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 signed into law on July 6 2012 by President Obama reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through September 30 2017 and increasing access for some residents whose homes could be impacted by flooding from federal land that resulted from wildfires. This law may allow residents in these impacted communities to be eligible for an exception from the 30-day waiting period usually required for flood insurance coverage. Additional information about NFIP is available through FEMA at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program or Flood Smart atwww.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/about/nfip_overview.jsp. Other flood preparednessinformation is available at www.ready.gov/floods andwww.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/ffr_overview.jsp.

The USDI Geological Survey (USGS) provides “water watch” internet tools and flood information for the State of California:

§ http://ca.water.usgs.gov/data/waterconditionsmap.html
§ http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/new/ m=real&r=ca
§ http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/new/index.php r=ca&id=flood
Related Information
Preparing for Rain Storms (PDF 97 kb)
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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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