CASPER, Wyo — A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team assembled by the U.S. Forest Service has completed its assessment of the landscape altered by the 176,878-acre Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
The team of hydrologists, soil scientists, road engineers, biologists, and archaeologists began assessments Oct. 10 to determine the potential for “increased post-fire flooding, erosion potential, debris flows, and hazard trees,” in the area.
Though the fire is 97% contained and evacuated residents have returned to the area over the last several weeks, hazards remain in the short and long term.
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Falling trees are expected more than usual in the future, impacting access on roads and trails. Snowmobilers may see downed trees across over 50 miles of trails, the U.S. Forest Service said. Some closures are still in effect.
“Accelerated erosion and localized flooding can be expected with moderate rainfall over the next few years, especially in areas with high and moderate soil burn severity on steep slopes and in the North Platte River and Douglas Creek canyons,” the release said.
A summary report contextualizing the broader implications will be released in the coming weeks. Friday’s report includes maps of soil-burn severity and debris flow probabilities for the area in the event of “a peak 15-minute rainfall intensity of 24 millimeters per hour (mm/h).”
BAER team co-leader Dave Gloss said, the team is working alongside multiple local, state, and federal agencies to evaluate potential risks to human life, safety, property, and critical natural and cultural-heritage resources. It is also determining the appropriate emergency stabilization measures.
The Mullen Fire began Sept. 17 and spread quickly through a dense forest of dead and downed lodgepole pine, much of stricken by beetle-kill.