The emergency after the flames is the reason for a new team moving in on the Spring Fire in Costilla and Huerfano Counties. “We want to protect homes and lives here,” said BAER Team Leader, Brad Rust. The BAER or Burn Area Emergency Response Team comes in to evaluate the fires effect on the soil and landscape. “See how prone it is to run-off that may cause downstream effects,” said BAER Team Soil Scientist Eric Nicita.
Close to 108,000 acres burned and the team will evaluate most of it. Soil scientists, hydrologists, geologists, also biologists work together to evaluate the potential danger when it rains. “Debris flows are the big killers and so we want to make sure we evaluate this whole watershed that we have a good idea of what could happen so we can inform the local agencies,” said Rust
A small storm earlier in the week, already pushed enough debris into one stream to clog a drain pipe and cause the black water to run across a road. On a tour, Soil Scientist Eric Nicita shows how to soil is now turned dust from the flames and heat. “I just scrape the surface and it just blows away in the wind. There’s no more life left in this.” If there is heavy rain it mean very high potential for danger. “That is horrible downstream,” said Nicita, “It creates mud flow; it contributes to debris flow; it contributes to flooding.”
The team also points out how quickly nature reacts after a fire. “It’s absolutely amazing plants are regenerating within ten days after the fire,” said BAER Team Hydrologist, Becky Biglow. In spots where the fire burned with less intensity you see grass sprouting and trees with surviving roots sending up shoots from the black ground.
The small amount of green is more a sign of hope than help at this point. The BAER team’s evaluation will help designate areas with the most potential for danger. Plans will also be made for work to mitigate and lower the threats.