Three Phases of Wildfire Rehabilitation

After a wildfire on federal lands, three phases of rehabilitation usually occur:

  • Fire Suppression Repair
  • Emergency Stabilization: Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER)
  • Long-Term Recovery and Restoration

The first phase, Fire Suppression Repair, includes a series of immediate post-fire actions to repair damages and minimize soil erosion and impacts resulting from fire suppression. These actions usually begin before the fire is fully contained, and before the demobilization of the Incident Management Team. This work repairs the firelines created by crews and dozers, and repairs or rehabs the roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points established or used during fire suppression efforts.

Emergency Stabilization: Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is the rapid assessment of burned watersheds by a BAER team to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property, and critical natural resources or cultural resources on National Forest System lands. Emergency stabilization actions are planned, with the goal of completing these before the first major storms. Fires result in loss of vegetation, exposure of soil to erosion risks, and increased water runoff that may lead to flooding, increased sediment, debris flows, or damage to critical natural and cultural resources. BAER actions often include seeding, mulching, installation of structures for control of erosion and water run-off, temporary barriers to protect recovering areas, and installation of warning signs. BAER work may also include replacement of safety-related facilities or removal of safety hazards. Other goals often involve preventing loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and protecting critical cultural resources.

Long-Term Recovery and Restoration involves non-emergency projects to improve fire-damaged lands that are unlikely to recover naturally and to repair or replace facilities that are not critical to life and safety. This phase may include restoring burned habitat, reforestation, other planting or seeding, and monitoring fire effects. Other projects may involve replacing burned fences, interpreting cultural sites, treating noxious weed infestations, and installing interpretive signs.