Hayman Fire & BAER Information
Frequently Asked Questions
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Q. What has made the Hayman Fire so significant?
A. It is Colorado’s largest ever wildfire in recorded history at more than 137,000 acres. In one particularly devastating run it burned nearly 60,000 acres and ran for 17 miles in one day. One section on June 17 was observed spreading ½ mile in just four minutes. The fuel moistures are the lowest in recorded history, adding to the unpredictability of the fire. In addition, the high numbers of residences and other buildings lost and threatened, as well as the thousands of people evacuated as a safety precaution, have added to the complexity of this fire. Four counties are involved in the fire, plus there is a large wilderness area on the west boundary of the Hayman Fire.
Q. When will the fire be out?
A. A wildfire goes through several stages of suppression before it is fully extinguished:
When firefighters have a fire line completely around the perimeter of the fire, the fires is said to be contained. Both natural and man-made features, such as rivers and roads, can be used as fire line in addition to constructed line.
When the initial fire line has been strengthened and widened to a point where it is unlikely that it will jump the fire line or that there will be spot fires outside the fire line, it is said to be controlled.
During the mop-up phase, firefighters go inside the fire line an adequate distance and put out all the hot spots and embers.
On a large fire like the Hayman Fire, it may be weeks or months before every hot spot and ember is out. Sometimes a fire is not completely extinguished until rains or winter snows complete the job.
Q. Do the people who were evacuated from their homes have to wait until the fire is completely extinguished before they can return to their homes?
A. No. The goal is to get people back to their homes as soon as possible. Once the fire is contained and there is little chance of it escaping the fire line, people may be permitted to return to their homes.
Q. Why do we have fire closures?
A. To protect lives, property and forest resources. When it is hot and dry and fire danger is extreme, the risk of starting a devastating wildfire that could destroy homes and property and threaten human lives also is very high. A temporary fire closure reduces this risk until the fire danger decreases. In addition, on a large fire like the Hayman, there are so many people and resources committed to the fire fighting effort that we simply cannot risk any additional fire starts. A fire closure also lessens this risk.
Q. Have fuels treatments (prescribed burns) done any good?
A. Yes. Prescribed burns remove the dangerous buildup of fuels under controlled conditions. Then, if a wildfire does occur, it will be of lower intensity and is more likely to stay on the ground and not get into the crowns of the trees. The Polhemus prescribed burn, for example, has currently slowed the advance of the Hayman fire in that area and brought the fire out of the tree crowns and down on the ground. This gave firefighters the time they needed to construct fire lines.
Q. What is done to mitigate the effects of the fire after it is contained?
A. After the fire, a team of resource specialists called a BAER Team arrives to assess the resource damage. BAER stands for Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation. This team may include hydrologists, soil scientists, wildlife biologists, engineers, botanists, foresters, and others. They develop a rehabilitation plan to address concerns about soil erosion; wildlife and fisheries; water quality; and other natural resource concerns. Rehabilitation efforts might include seeding, cross-felling trees to reduce erosion, protecting stream banks, and other measures.
Q. How are animals affected by the fire?
A. Large animals usually have time to flee the fire, but are often stressed and tired. Normally, the larger animals escape, but occasionally some of them do perish. Smaller animals, especially burrowing animals such as ground squirrels, mice, and shrews, often go underground and survive the fire. Some of the small ground animals also perish. Birds flee, but a fire can destroy their nests and any young birds or eggs, if it is the correct season. It is worth noting that when fire behavior is extreme, with the fire spotting and jumping the line, and making significant runs, there are usually more animals that die.
Q. Are there any threatened or endangered species in the area burned by the Hayman Fire?
A. Five threatened species are known to have inhabited the area. There are no known endangered species. The five threatened species are Canada lynx, bald eagle, Mexican spotted owl, Pawnee montane skipper (a butterfly), and the Prebble’s meadow jumping mouse. There are no known bald eagles or Mexican spotted owls in the area.
A. A red flag warning indicates predicted extreme fire danger and is triggered by four indicators: winds in excess of 10 MPH; relative humidity less than 12 percent; highly unstable winds; and poor relative humidity recovery overnight (which means that the day begins with a relatively low RH).
Q. What is red fire retardant or "slurry"?
A. It is a mixture of 85 percent water, 10 percent fertilizer (ammonia phosphate and sulfate ions), and 5 percent minor ingredients (iron oxide for color, clay, or bentonite). It works by coating fuels with moisture and it is dropped from aircraft. It is non-toxic to humans. However, it may be harmful to pets if swallowed (fertilizer poisoning). The slurry may stain, so it should be washed off structures to prevent darkening of colors.
Q. Why is the slurry red?
A. Simply for visibility. The red color is easy to see from both the air and the ground.
Q. What is Fire Barricade or "Green Slime"?
A. It is a liquid concentrate of super absorbent polymers designed to be used in a diluted form. When mixed with water, it creates tiny "bubblets" of water surrounded by a polymer shell. It is applied from the ground with a standard foam educator; a garden hose with a specially purchased attachment; or with an Atak Pak or Quik Atak system. The mixture sticks to both vertical and horizontal surfaces for long periods of time. Basically, it "glues" water to the sides of houses, protecting them from fires. The "green slime" is non-toxic and is biodegradable in the sun. It can be removed from structures with a high pressure nozzle, or with a pressure washer if it has already dried. This mixture can irritate the eyes or the skin. It also creates a slippery surface to walk on if it lands on concrete or similar surfaces.
Q. What happens to the livestock in areas burned over or threatened by the Hayman Fire?
A. Almost all of them are rescued and cared for until the owner can take them back again. One example is the Douglas County Animal Rescue Project, which was established to provide resources for livestock affected by the Hayman Fire. Efforts have been focused on the evacuation of livestock and placement in temporary housing at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and other facilities. Experienced volunteers are providing 24-hour care for the displaced livestock. Food and other supplies are being purchased using money donated to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Animal Relief Fund established at the Wells Fargo Bank. For additional information about volunteering, donations, or anything related to this effort, please call (720) 733-6903.
Q. What is "defensible space"?
A. Defensible space is a term used to identify the practice of
vegetation (fuels) management around a residential or commercial
structure in order to reduce wildfire threats. The idea is to break up
the continuity of the fuels (i.e. trees, shrubs, grasses, etc.) near a
structure to allow a wildfire to burn around it without causing
A. Pre-suppression activities are steps taken in order to create defensible space. These can include the removal of vegetation immediately adjacent to structures and the possible thinning of surrounding trees in order to break up the continuity of the fuels. Fire resistant plant species can and should be planted for landscape purposes. In addition, flammable materials should be removed from decks, roofs, gutters, etc.