Abstract: Session E  3:30 pm (Back to Session E)
Post-Fire Damage Assessment Following the 2018 Ute Park Wildfire

Cody Stropki
SWCA Environmental Consultants
Albuquerque, NM

 Authors: Cody Stropki, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Victoria Amato, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Albuquerque, New Mexico
David Lightfoot, Biology Department, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Crystal Young, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The 36,740-acre Ute Park Fire destroyed, damaged and disrupted watershed function on mostly private lands. The Ute Park Fire spread as a running crown fire across a large portion of the burned landscape (30,000 acres in first 3 days).  Although this fire burned with high severity through the overstory vegetation, removing a majority of the forested overstory canopy and protective litter and duff layer, the rapid rate of spread resulted in minimal residence time on the soil surface, resulting in less severe impacts to the watershed condition than was initially anticipated. The removal of the protective cover in the overstory canopy places the soil resource in high danger of future erosion if vegetation ground cover is not reestablished. Overall, the fire burned with mixed severity, with large unburned or low severity patches, adjacent to areas of significant mortality following stand replacing fire behavior. The treatments recommended were aimed at reducing the runoff and erosion damage to life, property, and natural resources. They were based on proven practices developed by SWCA engineers and methods developed by the U.S. Forest Service and can be found in the Burned Area Emergency Response Catalog (BAERCAT). Recommendations were chosen based on soil erosion reduction, long-term effectiveness, cost-benefit ratio, and site-specific implementation probability. A variety of actions were recommended that could be tailored to site-specific conditions, and specific landowner’s goals and management objectives. Since post-fire rehabilitation is most successful if implemented rapidly, the Ute Park BAER report matched recommended actions to potential funding sources, in order to facilitate implementation. The ability to understand the effectiveness of the different restoration techniques, whether positive or negative, is critical in understanding the post fire recovery process, particularly in a changing climate.