Why The Beaver Creek Fire Will Leave Lasting Landscape Effects
The Beaver Creek Fire moved through 174 square miles of land in August, threatening communities in the Wood River Valley.
Once the smoke cleared and the fire was out, a group of scientists studied the burned area. The group – called a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team – included a soil expert, a biologist, and a hydrologist. Julie Thomas is with the Sawtooth National Forest, and she says BAER teams come in after destructive and intense wildfires move through an area.
"[BAER teams] literally see every piece of ground that the fire has touched," says Thomas.
Thomas says the team assessed how long it would take to get the area back to normal – an area that is known for it's recreation opportunities.
“We had a world class trail system – they’re gone," Thomas says. "They are just simply gone. So we’re starting from scratch so that’s a little overwhelming, but we’ll get it back to the way it was. It’s just going to take some time and people are going to need to be patient.”
Just after the Beaver Creek Fire was fully contained earlier this month, heavy rains caused mudslides and flash floods in some of the burned areas. Officials warn erosion will likely be a concern for the next three- to-five years. Thomas says they’ll do their best to try and keep mudslides at bay.
“We will be doing some area mulching, where we use helicopters to drop straw onto the soil to stabilize it so when it snows and when it’s raining we can try and keep some rain from coming off the hillside,” Thomas says.
The Idaho Mountain Express reports if the cost to help restore the area is more than $500,000, the U.S. Forest Service in Washington D.C. will need to approve more funding.