Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Case Study

While many wildfires cause little damage to the land and pose few threats to fish, wildlife and people downstream, some fires create situations that require special efforts to prevent problems after the fire.

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Case Study

Narrator: Wildfires are a part of nature that can often be managed to help the environment remain healthy.


Regrowth after a wildland fire. Courtesy National Park Service.

On-Screen Text: Human-caused fires are always put out.

Narrator: But there are fires that cause damage.

Fires produce smoke

Fires can produce large amounts of smoke, which fill the sky. Courtesy National Park Service.

On-screen text: Wildfires that threaten human life and property are extinguished.

Narrator: Not only in what is burned, but what is left behind.

testing soil

Often fires do not consume all fuel on the ground. Courtesy National Park Service.

Narrator: A severe fire burns too many plants and roots that protects soil and prevents erosion.

On-screen text: Vegetation helps stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.

testing soil

Soil is tested to see if it will absorb water after a fire. Courtesy National Park Service.

Narrator: Furthermore, high intensity fires can bake plants and roots that protects soil and prevents erosion.

On-screen text: This hydrophobic soil will not absorb water, leading to dangerous erosion and flooding.

Narrator: These conditions are as destructive as the fires that caused them.

Narrator: With the ground left unable to absorb water, rain collects into a flood, loaded with burnt trees, sediment and boulders.

On-screen text: This type of flood acts like a bulldozer, tearing the forest as it moves through.

Narrator: Which will surge through the land devouring roads, building and polluting essential water reservoirs.

On-screen text: This type of flooding can cause more damage than the fire itself.

Narrator: To prevent this crisis, a team of specialists is requested.

On-screen text: Burned Area Emergency Response

Narrator: A BAER team will start before the fire is out stabilizing the burned area to prevent further damage or loss of life from erosion or flooding.

On-screen text: A BAER team includes biologists, archeologists, soil scientists, and as needed stat or tribal representatives.

Narrator: And will continue for months afterwards to assess and repair the destruction.

On-screen text: Satellite photos, on-ground surveys are used to determine the risks of flooding and minimize further damage.

Narrator: One of the first treatments is restoring areas that were cleared during construction of firelines.

On-screen text: During a fire, firelines are cut by firefighters to help contain the fire.

Narrator: And to prevent further erosion, logs may be laid across slopes to slow the flow of water and trap sediments.

On-screen text: Flexible straw tubes called 'wattles' may also be in place of logs.

Narrator: Metal fences are constructed to catch damaging debris and protect roads.

On-screen text: These metal fences stop damage from occurring further downstream of the flood.

Narrator: The water repelling soil is raked, allowing the soil to absorb water and begin plant growth.

On-screen text: Vegetation in raked soil recovers more quickly than in unraked soil.

Narrator: Straw is spread to protect the soil from rain, hold moisture, restore bacteria and break-down water tight soils.

On-screen text: Straw can be applied to the fore floor by aircraft.

Narrator: Native vegetation is seeded to return the area back to normal.

On-screen text: Only native species or annual plants that are compatible to the environment are seeded.

Narrator: Any threats to life and property are handled through meetings with landowners.

informing local communities

BAER teams use town hall meetings to inform local communities about fire recovery efforts. Courtesy National Park Service.

On-screen text: These meetings include information on hazard avoidance and progress towards recovery.

Narrator: And residential areas prone to flash flooding are provided with an early warning system.

On-screen text: Rain gauges measure rainfall and sound alarms if a community is threatened by flash floods.

Narrator: BAER gives nature and communities a head start in recovering from a massive fire.

Narrator: While a natural recovery from fire is best, a BAER team can help the speed of the restoration from more intense wildfires.