After the Fire
After a catastrophic wildfire, quick action must be taken to minimize social, environmental, and economic devastation. Responsive action requires navigating a complex maze of diverse landowners, community organizations, and numerous local and federal requirements.
Given enough time, forests eventually heal from wildfire. But that healing process can take decades, or even centuries. They simply won’t heal quickly without human intervention. Timely rehabilitation efforts reduce environmental impacts of fire, and can have a positive impact on the community’s social and economic situation in the months and years after the fire. Perhaps most importantly, quick and effective rehabilitation efforts improve public health and safety.
This page is intended to provide website links containing valuable post fire recovery and restoration information. We hope it will prove useful in helping your community establish plans and priorities that protect its citizens, homes, and essential infrastructure and resources from the destruction that can occur after a catastrophic wildfire.
Post Fire Websites
Insurance & Finances
Post-Fire Flood Risks
Weather & Alerts
Clean up & Recovery
Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER)
Health & wellbeing
The structures presented below are not intended to be an inclusive list and are only provided for informational purposes. Understanding your fire’s unique characteristics is essential in determining the correct use and installation of the following post fire tactics.
Descriptions of: Zuni Bowl, Log Drop, Rock Dam, Log Diversion, Bank Stabilization, Induced Meander, Head cut Mitigation, Log Mattress, Vegetation Planting, Rundown, Contour Felling, Water Harvesting, Sediment Trap, Flow Splitter, and Directional Felling and Bucking.
Hand Raking or light scarification is used on severely burned slopes with hydrophobic soil properties that will also be treated by mulching for erosion control, and may also include seeding to reestablish vegetation. It is primarily applicable to areas that are too small for efficient use of large machines, or are not accessible by machines due to slope steepness or presence of obstructions. The soil must be fairly loose to begin with such that it can be tilled with hand tools or a light harrow.
Severely burned sites should be seeded to decrease the likelihood of erosion and sediment movement down slopes, to discourage weed invasion, or to fulfill management objectives. The area to be seed should have adequate soil to support vegetation. Seeding slopes steeper than 60% is difficult, and not especially effective for reestablishing permanent vegetation.
Mechanical scarification is used primarily on burned slopes of less than 30% where soils are compacted or exhibit significant hydrophobic properties. Scarification is useful to improve conditions for seeding and mulching. Scarification can improve infiltration if the soil is deep and permeable enough that precipitation can percolate through it once it moves below the soil surface (NRCS Hydrologic Group A & B soils).
Log erosion barriers are used on moderate or severely burned slopes ranging between 20% to 60%, with erosive soils. LEBs are used where erosion rates have increased significantly because of the fire and there are high values at risk downstream. The site must have enough trees of adequate size to meet treatment objectives (at least 60 trees per acre). Soils can be shallow, but not less than about 8 inches. LEBs increase infiltration, adds roughness, reduce erosion, and help retain small amounts of eroded soil on site. LEBs should be effective for a period of one to two years, providing short term protection on slopes where permanent vegetation will re-establish and provides long term erosion control.
These barriers are used to protect building sites vulnerable to low mud debris flows from steep, erodible slopes that are partially or completely void of vegetation due to wildfire burns. This is an inexpensive, temporary protection method that can be used by homeowners before predicted rainfall. Sandbags deteriorate when exposed to continued wetting and drying for several months If the bags need to be used for more than a few months, cement can be mixed with the sand. The cement and sand mixture will harden when the bags dry.
These temporary structures are used to slow debris flow. They are not intended to provide protection from large storm events nor to control debris flows in water bodies such as creeks, streams and rivers.
Straw Wattles should be effective for a period of one to two years, providing short term protection on slopes where permanent vegetation will be established to provide long term erosion control. Contour Straw Wattles accomplish the same treatment as Log Terraces, but require less skilled labor to install and can be placed on the slope more effectively. Straw wattles should not be placed across drainage swales and channels with more than 2 acres of contributing drainage area because they are not sturdy enough to resist the forces of concentrated flows.
Modified Crib Wall (Mod-Crib Walls) are log structures placed in an ephemeral draw (drainage) to prevent or mitigate a headcut. Mod-Crib Walls intercept storm water running down a slope and trap sediment. They direct the water into the soil protection blankets. Rarely is a Mod-Crib Wall a stand alone structure, they are placed in series.
Hesco sells flood barriers that are easy to install and there is engineering support to install them. Theses structures will be used with critical infrastructure such as roads, cell phone communication towers, and electrical substations.
ECMs are used on severely burned slopes that have lost protective vegetative cover. ECMs are expensive so their use is generally limited to small areas to prevent erosion that would otherwise cause significant damage to high value properties. ECMs can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to mulches. ECMs are not appropriate in all situations.
Rock Check Dams are used where runoff is concentrated in a drainage way, swale, or road ditch that has lost all its natural protection due to the fire, or will receive increased flow rates as a result of fire in the contributing drainage area. The rock dams will reduce erosion and trap sediment generated from adjacent areas or the ditch itself. Rock Check Dams should be limited to use in open channels that drain 50 acres or less.
These barrier walls are used to protect buildings and other important sites with increased risk of flooding as a result of wildfires within the contributing drainage area. This is an expensive but stout protection method that can be installed quickly with heavy equipment and will last indefinitely. Temporary concrete barriers can be combined with diversion channels or other practices to create a flood/debris protection system.