Specialized team assesses damage at Whiskeytown

BAER team at Whiskeytown

In the wake of the Carr Fire, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area welcomed an interagency team of specialists to assess the widespread devastation.

The Burn Area Emergency Response team or BAER has been in Shasta County for several days, beginning their efforts to identify potential safety threats in the park.

The national recreation area, popular for its hidden waterfalls and freshwater lake, is now barely recognizable after the Carr Fire tore through the park.

"I was prepared to see a devastated landscape. Almost a moonscape here," said Andrea Crain a Public Information Officer for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The interagency group assessing the damage said even though 93 percent of the park burned in the fire, it isn't as bad as some feared.

"We found in our preliminary BAER findings that less than 10 percent of the entire Carr Fire burned at high intensity," said Crain.

The rest was low or medium intensity, closer to the levels used in controlled burns.

On Thursday, the BAER team demonstrated how to examine soil to determine if it could potentially cause damaging run-off and erosion this winter.

"When the rains come in the winter, people need to be very aware that there is the potential for flooding events and debris flow generation," said BAER team leader Chris Holbeck.

Holbeck said assess the soil with a simple water test.

" If the water sinks into the soil then you know it has low to moderate soil burn severity," Holbeck said. "But if it rolls off it's hydrophobic. Let's test sinks in. The soil is good."

Having a low or moderate burn severity means the soil should absorb water like regular dirt.

However, with hydrophobic soil, water can't absorb like it should, causing major safety concerns.

Holbeck also said even though trees look burned above ground, they may not be dead below the surface.

"There are fine root structures still intact below the a-horizon of the soil," Holbeck said. "Those roots will drive regeneration like this manzanita root."

By the end of their month long assessment, the 20 member team will present a report and plan to help the park get back to normal.

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