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Post-burn study begins for Burro Fire

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Monday, July 23, 2018 11:07 AM
A burn scar in Bear Creek Canyon. A team has begun an analysis of the impacts of the Burro Fire.
The Burro Fire started June 8 and torched nearly 5,000 acres in the Bear Creek area of the San Juan National Forest. Its cause is still under investigation.

Fire recovery specialists have begun assessing the impacts of the Burro Fire, which scorched 4,593 acres in Bear Creek Canyon northeast of Dolores.

Recent rains have led to nearly 100 percent containment of the fire, which is down to a smolder, said Pat Seekins, a fire management officer for the San Juan National Forest.

Members of a Burned Area Emergency Response team recently conducted a flyover to map the area affected by the wildfire and determine where emergency and long-term mitigation measures were needed. Surveys of the burn area also were conducted from the ground.

BAER teams consist of specialists, including hydrologists, geologists, soil scientists, road engineers, botanists, biologists and archaeologists, from federal and state agencies.

They analyze where flooding or mudslides might be triggered in the burn scar and look for public hazards such as burned standing timber near roads and trails, Seekins said. They also plan to determine seeding areas.

Data collected during the surveys will be used to produce a map depicting levels of soil burn, according to a San Juan National Forest news release.

"This is the first step in assessing potential watershed impacts from wildfires to any downstream values that may be at risk from potential increased flooding, sedimentation, debris flows and rock slides," the release stated.

The report includes findings of post-fire conditions and recommended emergency stabilization measures and actions. Emergency stabilization efforts are focused on the protection of human life, safety and property, as well as critical cultural and natural resource values such as the water quality of lakes and streams.

BAER reports are shared with interagency cooperators who work with downstream homeowners and landowners to prepare them for potential post-fire flooding and sediment flows.

The post-fire team anticipates that it will take about two weeks to complete the assessment report, which will be reviewed by the San Juan National Forest supervisor and approved by the forester for the Rocky Mountain region.

Everyone near to and downstream from the burned areas should remain aware of weather conditions that may result in heavy rains or flash floods. Current weather and emergency notifications can be found at the National Weather Service website: www.weather.gov/pub/.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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