Mon July 9, 2012

Heavy Rain Hampers High Park Burn Area Emergency Response Team

A Burn Area Emergency Response Team has been gathering information and conducting field observations to determine how to reduce the natural impacts from the High Park Fire.

The multi-agency team includes members from The US Forest Service, Larimer County, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Carl Chambers is a forest hydrologist for the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee Grassland and a member of the response team. He says the group is made up of soil scientists, biologists and even archeologists and recreation specialists. They have been working for the past two weeks to assess the burn zone, and find adequate ways to prevent massive flooding and mud flows.

“The purpose of the Burn Area Emergency Response is not to restore the burn area. It is to identify values at risk because of the changed conditions and the considerably increased risk of flood flows, erosion, and sedimentation and debris flows.”

However, recent heavy rains have hampered their work. Chambers says during normal conditions, the team works quickly after a blaze to assess storm forecasts and prescribe the best treatments to apply to a burn zone before thunderstorms happen.

“We were just unlucky this time, and the thunderstorms were happening while we were still doing the assessment.”

Chambers says recent flooding and mud flows are dangerous, and people living along the bottom of steep drainage areas are at an increased risk.

He also says people who are driving along roads within and adjacent to the burn area such as Hwy 14 should also be aware of changing conditions during heavy rain storms. The road runs along the Cache La Poudre River and debris flows like the one experienced Monday morning can put a considerable amount of material on the road in that area.

Chambers and the Burn Area Response Team will continue their assessment and meet with local officials to discuss their findings this week. The final burn assessment report is scheduled to be released to the public this Friday.