Tuolumne County, CA — They are called the Burned Area Emergency Response Team or BAER and their job is to make an emergency assessment of the landscape and emergency stabilization of it. The team is part of the second phase of wildfire rehabilitation crew working with the U.S. Interagency Fire Response Team battling the Rim Fire. There are about 70 soil scientists, botanists and hydrologists analyzing the fire area.
Baer Spokesperson Louis Haynes says, “It is really a rapid assessment of the burned watershed by a team of specialist. They’re here to identify imminent post wildfire threats to human life, safety, property, critical natural or cultural resources on natural forest system lands.”
Here are the Baer Team’s definitions of the three phases of wildfire rehabilitation:
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.
Haynes explains, “This second phase is designed to take place and put tools in place before we get the first major storms. So in this case, that will be before November and December, that we’ll have some tools on the ground and in place to prevent those major sediment or debris flows.”
The Baer team will release its findings in a report seven days after the Rim Fire is fully contained. That report will include a Soil Burn Severity Map showing the worst hit areas by the flames.