Burned Area Emergency Response, BAER
| Wildland Fire
While many wildfires cause minimal damage to the land and
pose few threats to the land or people downstream, some
fires cause damage that requires special efforts to prevent
problems afterwards. Loss of vegetation exposes soil to
erosion; water runoff may increase and cause flooding; sediments
may move downstream and damage houses or fill reservoirs
putting endangered species and community water supplies
After a fire the first priority is emergency stabilization
in order to prevent further damage to life, property or
natural resources. The stabilization work begins before
the fire is out and may continue for up to a year. The longer-term
rehabilitation effort to repair damage caused by the fire
begins after the fire is out and continues for several years.
Rehabilitation focuses on the lands unlikely to recover
naturally from wildland fire damage.
The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) program is designed
to address these emergency situations through its key goals
of protecting life, property, and critical natural and cultural
The objective of the BAER program is to determine the need
for and to prescribe and implement emergency treatments
on Federal Lands to minimize threats to life or property
resulting from the effects of a fire or to stabilize and
prevent unacceptable degradation to natural and cultural
BAER teams are staffed by specially trained professionals:
hydrologists, soil scientists, engineers, biologists, vegetation
specialists, archeologists, and others who rapidly evaluate
the burned area and prescribe emergency stabilization treatments.
A BAER assessment usually begins before the wildfire has
been fully contained.
In most cases, only a portion of the burned area is actually
treated. Severely burned areas, very steep slopes, places
where water runoff will be excessive, fragile slopes above
homes, businesses, municipal water supplies, and other valuable
facilities are focus areas. The treatments must be installed
as soon as possible, generally before the next damaging
storm. Time is critical if treatments are to be effective.
There are a variety of emergency stabilization techniques
that the BAER team might recommend. Reseeding of ground
cover with quick-growing or native species, mulching with
straw or chipped wood, construction of straw, rock or log
dams in small tributaries, and placement of logs to catch
sediment on hill slopes are the primary stabilization techniques
used. The team also assesses the need to modify road and
trail drainage mechanisms by installing debris traps, modifying
or removing culverts to allow drainage to flow freely, adding
additional drainage dips and constructing emergency spillways
to keep roads and bridges from washing out during floods.
BAER Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation
|What BAER may do:
||What rehabilitation may do:
|Install water or erosion control devices
|Plant for erosion control or stability
||Replant commercial forests or grass for forage.
|Install erosion control measures at critical
||Excavate and interpret cultural sites.
|Install temporary barriers to protect
treated or recovering areas.
||Replace burned pasture fences.
|Install warning signs.
||Install interpretive signs.
|Replace minor safety related facilities.
||Replace burned buildings, bridges, corrals, etc.
|Install appropriate-sized drainage features
on roads, trails.
||Repair roads damaged by floods after fire.
|Remove critical safety hazards.
|Prevent permanent loss of T&E habitat.
||Replace burned wildlife habitat.
|Monitor BAER treatments.
||Monitor fire effects.
|Plant grass to prevent spread of noxious
||Treat pre-existing noxious weed infestations.
Special Emergency Wildfire Suppression funds are authorized
for BAER activities and the amount of these expenses varies
with the severity of the fire season. Some years see little
BAER activity while others are extremely busy. On average,
BAER expenses have been about 5% of the cost of fire suppression.
BAER assessment plans and implementation are often a cooperative
effort between federal agencies (Forest Service, Natural
Resources Conservation Service, National Park Service, Bureau
of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau
of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey), and state, tribal
and local forestry and emergency management departments.
They are closely coordinated with private landowners.
How Can You Be Involved or Learn More?
Gain awareness of the BAER program and how the process
works. Find out who manages BAER activities at your local
Forest Service or other federal or state land management
office. Contact your local federal or state land management
agency, or call the Fire Information Desk during a wildfire
to learn who is leading efforts in your area.
See if you can help install some treatments as a volunteer,
or help monitor the success of these treatments and maintain
them in following years. Past BAER treatment projects have
involved school and scout groups and community organizations.
Much labor is often needed within a short period of time
to install much-needed erosion-control measures. Monitoring
the regrowth of vegetation through photographs makes a good
long-term school science project.
Thank you for your interest in the Burned Area Emergency