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Teams Preparing to Analyze Local Wildfire Burns For Mudslide Risk

Credit: Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images
Credit: Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

Even though many of the fires that hit western Montana this summer are dead or dying, teams of people will still be working on the ground right up through November to try to prevent another natural disaster: mudslides. Rice Ridge Fire information officer Mike Cole explains the work of Burned Area Emergency Response Crews.

“They’ll go in and specifically look for areas where the soil might have been extremely, severely burned, because in those situations it actually makes a crust on the surface,” Cole said. “Then, if it rains a lot, instead of soaking into the ground, it will run off the surface in sheets and that’s what moves soil down the hill, creates debris flows, fills up culverts and takes out roads.”

If the ground is burned so severely that it won’t absorb water, there are still a few steps crews can take.

“They might take these long straw waddles and stake those in the ground for erosion control  they may do horizontal falling of snags and stake those so that any soil movement gets caught,” Cole said. “They’ll also be cleaning out ditches and culverts so if any debris does come down it won’t be clogging up the culverts and then taking the roads out.”

The type one incident management team on Rice Ridge will leave today and be replaced with a type two incident management team, which will focus on repairing the area.

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