Printer Friendly

LOOKING AHEAD AFTER BLAZE DAY FIRE'S DAMAGE TO FOREST ASSESSED.

Byline: CAROL ROCK Staff Writer

SESPE WILDERNESS -- The raging fire is gone but crews are still combing the landscape. Now, however, they're armed with shovels, global positioning systems, cameras and clipboards.

The BAER team -- short for Burned Area Emergency Response -- came in on the heels of firefighters who worked the monthlong Day Fire, which burned 162,702 acres in the Angeles and Los Padres national forests.

The team is assessing the damage to try to prevent further damage to resources within and downstream from the parks.

The team includes specialists in hydrology, recreation, soil and archaeology who take satellite-generated maps and verify damage by walking and touching and digging, compiling data that will be used to restore areas and chart fire behavior to help future firefighting efforts.

Pete Crowheart is the tribal relations program manager for the BAER team. Because the fire burned through an area identified with the Chumash Indians, part of his job is assessing damage to rock paintings and stone tool caches as well as settlement areas marked on resource maps.

While working in the Angeles National Forest, the team discovered an unmapped Chumash roasting pit near Pyramid Lake.

``They were doing (bull)dozer work and had their atlas where all the sites are marked,'' he said. ``If they're going to put (fire) lines around, they usually avoid them, but inadvertently, they uncovered a new one, which will be rehabbed and recorded.''

While equipment used to fight fires is generally heavy, Crowheart said modern techniques can be used in sensitive areas.

``It's really something how firemen are a lot different from 20 to 30 years ago and how responsible they are in protecting cultural resources. They go out of their way to learn the history of the area and actually did some (preventive) back-burning to protect sites,'' he said.

Watershed protection and effects on the land downstream is a major concern of the team, which has determined that a large amount of debris, including charred wood and sediment, will wash into Pyramid Lake because of natural erosion.

``Debris will be a real issue,'' said soil specialist Kevin Cooper. ``Sediment is not going to be able to stop. Short of digging a large reservoir upstream, you just have to get out of the way.

``We have to wait for vegetation to grow, which will hold the soil in place. Depending on the weather, we could have enough cover to withstand water flow in three to five years. Of course, if we have a drought, it could take a lot longer.''

The team also watches for any evidence of invasive weeds, which can be carried to new sites on bulldozers that are moved from fire to fire.

``We try to monitor where the dozers have been and wash them off because seeds get caught on the equipment,'' Cooper said. ``We've had some terrible infestation of thistles that were spread by equipment.''

Recreation specialists assess the damage to campsites and picnic areas, first to determine if the areas need stabilization and then to make sure they are safe for the public.

In a recent outing, soil specialist Jeff TenPas dug a small shovel into the scorched earth near blackened trees and turned over layers of ash and dirt, measuring the depth and degree of damage to the duff and grasses.

As a final step, he took a small squeeze bottle from his jacket, dropped single drops of water into the hole left by his shovel and counted how long it took for the water to be absorbed.

It disappeared quickly, leaving a spot of moisture behind.

In another spot nearby, the water immediately beaded on the surface, indicating organic matter under the surface had coated soil particles and made them impervious to water.

``This is like water beading on a waxed car,'' TenPas said, noting the activity on a clipboard and taking a digital picture, complete with GPS coordinates. ``When it rains, the water will run right off and could cause erosion problems downstream.''

Walking through the burned area, hydrologist Terry Henry paid close attention to the flexibility of the blackened vegetation.

``If it crunches, that's moderate damage,'' she said. ``But if you step on it and it goes `poof' under your foot, that's severe.''

Along with their ground-level research, the team also will chart the movement of the fire.

Along Lockwood Valley Road, several stands of trees looked completely normal on one side but were charcoal sticks on the other -- indicative of the path of fast-moving flames.

The team, which travels from fire to fire as needed, expects to finish its work in Lockwood Valley by the end of the week.

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5252

CAPTION(S):

9 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) District Fire Management Officer Paul Gibbs prepares to survey the burn area in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park. Members of the Burn Area Emergency Response Team arrived to survey the damage caused by the Day Fire.

(2 -- color in SAC edition only -- ran in SAC and AV editions only) Soil scientist Jeff TenPas, a member of the Burn Area Emergency Response Team, tests the soil damaged by the Day Fire in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park on Friday afternoon.

(3 -- 4; 3 -- ran in SAC and AV editions only; 4 -- ran in SAC edition only) District Fire Management Officer Paul Gibbs, above and below, surveys the burn area in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park.

(5 -- ran in SAC edition only) Soil scientist Jeff TenPas tests the soil as hydrologist Terry Henry checks their location on a map in the Sespe Wilderness.

(6 -- ran in SAC edition only) Soil scientist Jeff TenPas and hydrologist Terry Henry check their location on a map while surveying the burn area in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park.

(7 -- 8 -- ran in AV edition only) Soil scientist Jeff TenPas and hydrologist Terry Henry, above, look at the massive burn area in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park on Friday. At right, Henry checks her location on a map while surveying the burn in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park.

(9 -- ran in Valley edition only) Soil scientist Jeff TenPas tests the soil in the Sespe Wilderness near Frazier Park on Friday.

Alex Collins/Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 8, 2006
Words:1047
Previous Article:TRANSITION FOR PERRY PAYS OFF.
Next Article:`THE GREAT GREG MADDUX'.


Related Articles
SYLMAR FIRE FOUGHT IN RUGGED TERRAIN.
ANGELES FOREST BLAZE DOUSED.
VENTURA COUNTY BLAZE SPARES HOMES, RACES THROUGH 400 ACRES.
Firefighters encircle Clark blaze.
BRIEFLY.
Second Sisters fire burns 300 acres.
FIRE CLOSE TO I-5 CAMPFIRE MIGHT BE CAUSE OF BLAZE.
FIRE JUMPS LINE UP IN LOS PADRES LOCKWOOD VALLEY URGED TO EVACUATE.
SUSPICIONS RAISED PLACERITA CANYON BLAZE CONTAINED.
FIRE BLACKENS 150 HILLY ACRES TEENS ARRESTED HOLLYWOOD SIGN, STUDIOS BRIEFLY THREATENED BY BLAZE.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters