But the wet weather still presents challenges for fire clean-up efforts, according to U.S. Forest Service’s Caldor Fire information officer Sarah Wheeler.
“So, as the flames die down, the repair work really amps up. And that’s where we’re at right now. We know a lot of weather is coming in. We know a lot of weather is going to make some sites inaccessible,” Wheeler explained. “So, it’s this game that we’re trying to strategize about, like where can we put equipment to get the most work done before we’re kicked out of the area due to weather?”
FOX40 found heavy equipment along Mormon Emigrant Trail after crews wrapped up a busy day of forest repair work.
“Getting rid of those hazard trees, processing them, chipping, mulching and then spreading that out to help prevent some of that erosion that we know will come with future precipitation,” Wheeler said.
There are two types of damage that need repair: damage to the forest caused by the fire itself, and then there’s damage caused by the fire suppression efforts, such as dozer lines.
“And so, we go in and try to repair as much as we can, put topsoil, more vegetative cover over those dozer lines, kind of put back the hand lines and try to repair some of that damage that was done,” Wheeler said.
The expected heavy rains over the next several days could not only put that work on hold, but it might wash a lot of loose debris from the burn areas into waterways and roads.
Preventing landslides within the burn scar is a very tall task.
Soil scientist Eldorado National Forest Eric Nicita is one of the lead members of a team dedicated to limiting erosion around the burn scar.
“218,000-acre fire, it’s hard to make a dent in the amount of erosion and sediment that’s going to be delivered,” Nicita said. “This atmospheric river that’s coming in is going to create a really dangerous situation for Highway 50.”
Nicita told FOX40 toxins in the soil from burned structures are another top concern. Heavy rains can spread those hazardous materials.
“We’re actually prioritizing those sites that the hazmat might directly enter a water body,” Nicita said.
In the meantime, snake-like coils, called straw wattles, are laid down as temporary lines of defense around burned structures to filter hazardous materials out of the water.