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Friday, July 22, 2011


While fires continue to burn in the South and SE, other parts of the country are begining to experience an increase in activity. UT,WY,SD and ID as well as western Canada all have active wildfires. Other areas of the country may soon be dealing with wildfires also. I just read a report where Maine is preparing for the possibility of wildfires as the danger levels increase.

Weekly statistics 7/19/11
Number of new large fires
States currently reporting large fires:
Number of active large fires
Fires managed for multiple objectives (26)
Arizona (1)
California (1)
Georgia (3)
Idaho (1)
New Mexico (4)
North Carolina (2)
Oklahoma (2)
Texas (4)
Wyoming (1)
Acres from active fires
Fires contained since 7/18/11
Year-to-date large fires contained
Year-to-date statistics
2011 (1/1/11 - 7/18/11)
Fires: 41,930
Acres: 5,866,869
I thought I would provide some info on an aspect of wildfires that many dont think about unless you happen to live in an area which this is fairly common. And that is the additional damage caused by wildfires long after the fire and smoke is gone.

Flooding and mud slides are a real problem in some parts of the country (thankfully not so much here in VA)
Although the picture below is a rather extream example, this is an amazing aspect of wildfire damage and recovery. My first experience was when I was on an assignment in Colorado when we held a public meeting after the first real rain in an area that was recently burned. One lady got up and spoke about how thankful she and her family was that the firefighters saved their home from the wildfire BUT they lost everything as the flodding washed away their home. Rain is definately the two edged sword at times.
There are specially trained teams that work with identifying potential areas of concern and make recovery recomendations, they are  the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Teams.
 The BAER program addresses these situations with the goal of protecting life, property, water quality, and deteriorated ecosystems from further damage after the fire is out.
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 further catastrophic damage after the fire. Loss of vegetation exposes soil to erosion; runoff may increase and cause flash flooding; sediments may move downstream and damage houses or fill reservoirs; and put endangered species and community water supplies may be at risk.
Why is flooding after a fire such a big threat? For one thing, flames consume leaf litter and decomposing matter on the ground that normally soak up water. Additionally, after a fire, the soil itself has the potential to become hydrophobic, or water repellant. Plants and trees have numerous protective chemicals with which they coat their leaves to prevent water loss. Many of these substances are similar to wax. Vaporized by the heat from fires, these substances disperse into the air and then congeal over the soil surface when the fire begins to cool. Like the wax on your car, these substances coat the soil, causing water to bead up and run off quickly. In general, the greater the fire intensity and the longer the fire’s residence time, the more hydrophobic the soil becomes.

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