BAER prepare recovery of land torched from Brian Head wildfire

By Craig Bennett and Holly Coombs

With a full house, a meeting at Brian Head Town Hall took place with a presentation by The Dixie National Forest and Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team regarding the Brian Head wildfire regrowth.

Dixie National Forest District Manager for Cedar City Veronica Magnuson, speaks to public at a meeting at Brian Head Town Hall last Thursday.

Veronica Magnuson, Cedar City district ranger for the Dixie National Forest, said the team and forest service are currently assessing what will need to be done as nearly 72,000 acres have been burned from the Brian Head fire.

Magnuson said trails wise Bunker and Spruce are two trails in Brian Head that are a priority to get back in good shape.

“Crews will be working Monday on falling trees and getting that loop open,” Magnuson said. “I know there is a lot of trails we want to get going, but some are not as easy as others.”

She said Spruce will take a bit more rehab.

Yankee Meadows will take a lot longer to open with the damage needing assessing for possible reseeding. The Parowan Half Marathon will run down Highway 143 at a different route, Magnuson said.

Brook Shakespear, Hydrologist and a leader of the BAER team spoke of the plan regarding three phases of recovery:

  • Identify post threats to human life and safety, property and critical natural or cultural resources on National Forest System.
  • Implement response actions or emergency stabilization when planed actions substantially reduce risk with first year following the fire.

Shakespear said three things the team looks for with burned area is the values at risk, risk assessment and treatment recommendations.

He pointed out the areas of high risk, moderate and low on a map of the land all effected by the wildfire.

“We have to consider the soil burn areas,” Shakespear said. “You don’t always know what soil has been burned until you consider the hydrophobicity, if the roots are charred and the soil structure.”

“We are currently looking for state funding for seeding,” he said.

Hydrologyst Brook Shakespear explains the effected burn areas on a map at a meeting at Brian Head Town Hall last Thursday.

Shakespear and Magnuson said that it is likely replanting 72,000 acres will not be possible, but 20,000 is more likely.

By August, straw and seeding will be dropped in by helicopters, Magnuson and Shakespear said.

“Regrowth and repair will take years to come,” Magnuson said. “But we are working to see where to start.” 

 In the most recent Cedar City Council meeting, Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips said that the fire is not classified 100 percent contained because of hot spots underground that can still spark up.

“They don’t want to say it’s really fully contained until the first snow is on the ground,” Phillips said.

In lieu of the regrowth, the USDA Forest Service Plant-A-Tree Program is taking place for those who want to donate. The program was established in 1983.

“It allows individuals or groups to voluntarily contribute funds directly to the Forest Service for planting small seedlings in areas where floods, fires or logging have had an impact,” according to a Dixie National Forest press release.

Donations can always be made to the National Headquarters Office or to a specific National Forest. According to the IRS these donations are tax deductible. 

The suggested minimum donation is $10, which can usually plant approximately 10 seedlings which are generally conifers. The contributed funds are exclusively used to acquire seedlings and also to cover the cost of the planting. 

The Forest Service will take care of the trees as part of their normal reforestation activities. Trees cannot be individually identified as a memory to someone. Those that donate do receive a certificate to commemorate the contribution. If the donation is on behalf of another person or family, please indicate the name of the person.

The funds received in the National Headquarters Office over the course of the year are pooled and distributed annually toward selected projects. The projects are funded where the greatest reforestation need exist

For donations to the National Headquarters Office or a National Forest, make checks or money orders payable to “USDA, Forest Service.” Contributions are non-refundable. It may take between 4-6 weeks for the donation to process after the letter/check has been received.

For more information regarding donations to the Dixie National Forest, please contact (435) 865-3200. 

Photos by Holly Coombs

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