U.S. Forest Service BAER Team Begins South Sugarloaf Post-Fire Assessment

Contact(s): Erica Hupp (775) 355-5311; Naaman Horn (702) 515-5413

Elko, NV. – The Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest has assembled a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team to gather information; conduct an analysis; determine the values at risk on National Forest System (NFS) lands caused by the post-fire conditions; and recommend emergency treatments for the recent South Sugarloaf Fire.

The BAER Team consists of scientists and specialists including hydrologists, geologists, soil scientists, engineers, botanists, biologists, archeologists, range specialists, etc. The team will use field surveys, remote sensing data (e.g., satellite imagery), and science and economic-based models to rapidly evaluate and assess the burned area. A report will be generated that will identify immediate and emergency actions needed to address post-fire risks to people, property, and cultural and natural resources on NFS lands.

Some of the impacts from the fire that may be addressed include threats to public safety and increased risk of flooding, erosion, sedimentation, debris flows, new or expanded invasive plant infestations, and falling trees and rocks. Where the possible impacts to values-at-risk on NFS lands are severe enough and highly likely to occur, the BAER Team will make recommendations on short-term emergency stabilization treatments to mitigate or eliminate the expected impacts.

BAER emergency treatments may allow for more efficient passage of water to increase protection for infrastructures and watersheds from accelerated erosion, as well as improving roads and trails drainage features by removing outside berms, installing critical dips, and cleaning debris from culverts to prevent damage from post-fire runoff.

Other treatments could include controlled public access in certain areas to prevent unnecessary safety risks to the public or to ensure success of funded stabilization efforts; installation of safety and informational signage within or near the fire area; hazard tree and rock slide detection, and removal along trails and roads; and noxious weeds treatments within the burned areas.

The Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District and BAER Team representatives have met with the Shoshone-Paiute of the Duck Valley Tribal Council and scheduled meetings with affected grazing permittees. They have also met with interested stakeholders at a recent public meeting in Elko, Nevada. The team is planning additional public meeting that will be held in the areas of Mountain City, Owyhee, and Jarbidge over the next several weeks. The District will arrange a stakeholders’ tour of the South Sugarloaf Fire area once the fire area is determined safe for the public to re-enter.

Over the next year, the District will assess the need to complete additional resource protection or repair roads, trails, or other infrastructure in the South Sugarloaf area that cannot be addressed through BAER or suppression repair authorities.

The U.S. Forest Service is also working cooperatively with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Administration to ensure that private landowners affected by the fire are made aware of various emergency-assistance programs that are available. These programs may be able to assist private landowners with protection or rehabilitation of private resources. More information may be found at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/nv/programs/financial/ewp/ and https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/index

Additionally, the Forest is working cooperatively with the National Weather Service to install a remote weather station and implement updated flood forecasting to allow residents and travelers in the area to have the most up to date storm event, debris flow, and flash flooding information.