By Ann McCreary
To quickly assess areas at risk of damage from flooding and mudslides after fires in Okanogan County, a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report will be initiated this week.
“The intent is on Friday (Sept. 11) to stand up our BAER team like last year,” said Craig Nelson, manager of the Okanogan Conservation District.
“As we know from last year’s experience, we have major danger here and need to be prepared for it,” Nelson said.
In the weeks after the Carlton Complex Fire, a multidisciplinary team surveyed the burned area to develop a BAER report. It summarized potential post-fire risks to people and the environment, and recommended emergency stabilization and long-term restoration actions.
“We will look at all the fires that have been a part of the Okanogan and North Star Complex. That includes the Twisp River Fire,” said Nelson, who helped lead the report last year.
“The good news is we don’t have as much to learn. The bad news is there is a lot more ground to cover,” he said.
Nelson estimated about 200,000 acres of state and private lands, about 200,000 acres of tribal land and about 60,000 acres of federal lands have burned in those fires.
After information is gathered, the team will recommend ways to protect vulnerable areas, stabilize slopes and let people know of potential risks. Nelson said the team hopes to complete its work in about eight days.
He said the Conservation District is also hoping to implement the federal Emergency Watershed Protection Program again, which helped fund construction of about a dozen diversion structures this summer to protect homes from flooding and mudslides.