After the Wildfire: Post-Fire Cleanup and Restoration

The Supply Cache Blogger |

After the Wildfire: Post-Fire Cleanup and Restoration

Putting out wildfires is hard and grueling work, but another big job begins after the blaze. Namely, restoring the land and preventing another fire. Here’s a short breakdown of how post-fire cleanup and restoration is handled after the wildfire. It’s a long and laborious process, but it pays off in preservation of our most important natural resources.

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Program

The post-fire process begins well before the last flames are put out. After the disaster, the United States Forest Service requires wildfire responders to follow the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program to prevent further damage. Here’s a breakdown of the process, its procedures, and what can be done to stop future blazes.

The BAER process reviews potential harm to any nearby people and their property. It also considers threats to natural and cultural resources and moves to promote actions that mitigate risk and danger to animal life and vegetation. A BAER report is generated by a team of scientists, experts, and researchers who specialize in cultural preservation, endangered species, soil and water quality, engineering, and others. All contribute their expertise and insights on what needs to be done right away and in the years after a fire. The Earth has the remarkable ability to heal itself, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help it along with a little “first aid” followed by ongoing care and recuperation efforts.

Soil Steps

BAER responders address the soil quality first, especially around portions of the burned area where steep slopes and water runoff could possibly cause further damage to people, property, and plant life. The weather can change at any time and exposed soil can erode, so these areas are stabilized through treatments to mitigate further damage. Soil stabilization is achieved through seeding the area with local plants, grasses, and native trees. Hydroseeding involves spraying a mixture of water, seed, mulch, fertilizer, cellulose fiber, and other soil treatments onto the affected area. The layer of seeds is protected by the other ingredients, letting them germinate and grow into healthy plants. Stabilization is performed through mechanical means as well. Erosion control blankets and silt fences hold the soil in place, allowing it to grow back more quickly.

Environmental Impact

After the soil is stabilized and seeded, the BAER responders assess the greater environmental impact of the fire. Water quality is, of course, a key concern. The local water supply is tested to ensure it hasn’t been contaminated. Wildfires can also block waterways with debris, further raising the risk of contaminated water. A lack of clean water can be dangerous to wildlife, vegetation, and any people living close by or visiting the area. Therefore, action is taken to get the water cleaned up and flowing again.

BAER personnel study wildlife as well, often running surveys of the local fauna and determining the wildfire’s effects on threatened and endangered species. This determines how to help the land shelter and sustain these species once more, while keeping an eye on invasive species that might try to take over. Part of replanting also involves making sure there’s plenty of future food, nesting opportunities, and other materials plants provide to help animals survive. Temporary shelters may also be built for animals to rest and recover while the land heals itself.

Getting the Community Involved

A big part of post-wildfire efforts is engaging with the public, both in the immediate community and beyond. Through online communications, public meetings, workshops, and volunteer programs, the forest service and other organizations and administrations gather information and get volunteers involved in the post-fire cleanup and land restoration. Obviously, communities affected by a fire can receive assistance more easily if they’re kept in the loop. It’s also an opportunity to raise both awareness and funding that can aid in future restoration efforts.

What Happens Next?

The BAER process starts while the flames are rising and continues its work in the many months after the fire. An ecosystem isn’t rebuilt in a day. It takes years and even decades to regrow a forest, prairie, or other natural area. Officials continue to monitor and test the environment affected by the fire, continuing to ensure the soil remains stabilized and the plants, animals, and humans that depend on the area have an opportunity to recover and thrive as well. Regrowth is monitored as well. If there are places where seeds aren’t growing back healthy and strong, the situation is reviewed once more to discover the cause and adjust their approach. Rebuilding facilities may also be required, so architects, restorationists, and builders are enlisted to shore up, restore, or entirely replace damaged and destroyed facilities and buildings.

Ready to Fight; Working so They Don’t Have To

Wildland firefighters, of course, continue to train and watch over the areas where they perform their duties. They ensure the ingredients for another big blaze don’t have a chance to mix and create a recipe for disaster. Firefighters surveil areas where wildfires might occur—especially during dry seasons—and attempt to ensure they don’t, through controlled, brush-clearing fires; digging fire breaks; felling trees and clearing brush; and watching the weather; among other duties. Of course, since most wildland fires are the direct result of human accidents and carelessness, the best way to stop them is through public education and outreach.

Those are the basics about what happens after the wildfire with post-fire cleanup and restoration. The Supply Cache does its part by providing the materials and fire line tools wildland firefighters need to stop fires and, hopefully, prevent them from happening. If you need to outfit your wildland fire fighting crew, contact us for a consultation on the best available tools and equipment to help them put out fires while staying safe. Originally founded by two wildland firefighters who recognized the need for specialized wildfire-fighting tools, The Supply Cache has been serving the wildland firefighting community for over 30 years. We continue to expand our selection of tools and protective equipment and are always interested in hearing what our clients require to perform their duties. Contact us today! We look forward to hearing from you.

After the Wildfire: Post-Fire Cleanup and Restoration