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Response team surveys Pine Lodge Fire aftermath

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A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team has completed an assessment of post-fire conditions after the Pine Lodge Fire, which burned more than 15,000 acres in the Capitan Mountains on the Smokey Bear Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest earlier this summer.

The team included soil scientists, a hydrologist and an engineer, according to a press release issued Monday by the U.S. Forest Service.

The BAER program provides a rapid assessment to identify and manage potential threats to safety, property, water quality, and natural and cultural resources after a wildfire, the press release states.

Through soil analysis the team determined 9,068 acres burned at a low severity or were unburned, 5,748 acres burned at a moderate severity and only 228 acres suffered “high-severity” burn damage.

After a fire soil can become hydrophobic, meaning it repels water instead of absorbing it. As monsoon season sets in, the BAER Team was concerned about a potential for increased water runoff due to the post-fire hydrophobic soil conditions and lack of vegetative cover that typically prevents erosion.

Monsoonal weather patterns bring heavy rainfall and increase the threat of localized flash flooding, which could contain sediment, large pieces of debris and boulders.

Residents and visitors to the area around the Pine Lodge Fire should remain alert to the possibility of flooding downstream from the burned areas, and increased flow and ash may be visible in stream channels. Falling dead standing trees, known as snags, also pose a risk in high wind conditions.

The Pine Lodge BAER Team also made recommendations for road stabilization within the burned area, hazard signs for the roads, caution signs for trails intersecting the burned area, storm patrol and early detection of non-native invasive species of plants.

Implementation of these recommendations began July 31 and will be on going throughout August, according to the press release.