CANCELLED Fire & Rain: Rapid Assessment and Emergency Mitigation Measures Following Wildfires


Course Description

Wildfires are becoming a common occurrence in the United States , and rather than seasonal perturbations, they appear to be occurring at all times of the year as well. In southern California , hot, dry winds blow from the desert in a phenomenon known as Santa Ana conditions. Strong, shifting, and westward blowing, these winds—when combined with high temperatures, low humidity and drought—create the perfect condition for fast spreading, uncontrollable fires. In Colorado and other mountain states, bark beetle infestation has killed trees already weakened by disease and years of drought creating tinder-dry conditions in thousands of acres of national forest. Lightning strikes, accidents and the inevitable incidents of arson cause significant loss of vegetation and increase the potential for erosion, debris flows, runoff, and flooding hazards. Human health and safety is compromised not only during the incidence of fire, but in its aftermath as well, particularly in the urban interface.


The process of rapid assessment of post-fire hazards and the emergency mitigation of primary and secondary impacts requires efficient collection, processing, and analysis of field data and conditions. Geosyntec Consultants has used a number of innovative and recently developed tools and techniques during the hazard assessment, mitigation, and implementation process to improve the efficiency of the collection of field data to improve the ability to make time-critical engineering decisions. These tools included: deployment of ruggedized personal digital assistants (PDAs), a whole-project field data management solution, the use of 1 meter pan-chromatic and 2.4 meter multi-spectral satellite imagery, analysis of post-fire imagery to delineate burn areas based on satellite imagery, and low-altitude aerial photography to refine estimates of burn severity and watershed response.


This course provides an overview of the post-fire assessment, planning, and mitigation process with site-specific examples of the tools and techniques applied, as well as a summary of the results of remediation efforts, lessons learned, and a discussion of the appropriateness of the technologies as a function of the magnitude and complexity of the task at hand following wildfires. A team of instructors experienced with multiple wildfire incidents throughout the western United States will cover the following topics:


The Money Tree: How Post-Fire Emergency Remediation Gets Funded:

•  Roles and responsibilities of local, state, and federal agencies

•  Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

•  USDA/NRCS/Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)

•  USFS/Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER)

•  FHWA/Emergency Transportation Operations for Disasters (ETO)

•  Other state and local programs


Evaluation and Assessment of Hazards:

•  Identification of hazards and potential impacts

•  Immediate actions

•  Homeowner and public programs

•  Resources available

•  Process and estimation

•  Incremental planning and implementation

•  Selection of Best Management Practices (BMPs)

•  Economic defensibility

•  To seed or not to seed


Implementation and Mitigation:

•  Labor and Materials

•  Contracting

•  Logistics

•  Accounting

•  Follow-up and as-built


Mike Harding , senior consultant, Geosyntec Consultants , Mike has played key roles in the emergency soil stabilization efforts following several major California wildfires, including the 1991 Oakland firestorm, 1993 Southern California fires, and the 2003/2007 San Diego County and City Fires. Nationally, his efforts on over 40 emergency response plans have focused on leadership, financial assistance, and technical guidance in the form of post-fire hazard assessment, design of mitigation strategies, and oversight of extensive mitigation implementation efforts before the onset of winter rains. His guidance to the City of Oakland contributed to their being awarded the Environmental Excellence Award in 1992 by the International Erosion Control Association and the Engineering Excellence Merit Award in 1992 by the Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors of California (CELSOC). His work following the 2007 Firestorms in southern California contributed to the County of San Diego and Geosyntec Consultants receiving the Award of Excellence from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the City of San Diego/Geosyntec being awarded the Outstanding Civil Engineering Project for 2007 by ASCE as well.

Ron Johnson, PE, is a senior engineer based in California with more than 20 years of experience in applying geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering principles to the development of infrastructure and the constructed environment. Mr. Johnson specializes in solid and hazardous waste disposal site permitting, design, and construction. He has led large multidisciplinary teams of engineers and scientists in the design and construction of low-level radiological disposal facilities, remediation of impacted sites, and the construction and closure of many landfill and disposal cells across the southwestern United States and abroad. He continues to advance the understanding of containment systems by authoring papers on geosynthetics and by giving presentations to the National Academy of Sciences on the performance of engineered barriers. Mr. Johnson was integrally involved with the City and County of San Diego emergency post-fire response teams for the 2003 and 2007 wildfires. He has led follow-up studies to evaluate the effectiveness of post-fire erosion treatments on reducing sedimentation and their influence on vegetation recovery.

Kathleen Harrison is a California Profession Geologist and an Associate in the Water Resources Division of Geosyntec’s San Diego Old Town office. Ms. Harrison specializes in watershed management, water quality, storm water and non-storm water management, permitting, and development of planning, compliance, reporting and guidance documents. She has over 20 years of experience conducting environmental and water quality protection-related studies. Ms. Harrison has been the lead author and collaborated on numerous Cumulative Watershed Effects Analysis and Restoration and Monitoring Plans and CEQA/NEPA documents, specifically focusing on assessment of surface water hydrology and soils-related impacts. She was a team lead for identifying high priority sites prone to increased runoff and erosion following the 2007 County of San Diego fire storm. She has evaluated areas at risk due to post-fire increased erosion and runoff following the 2000 Cerro Grande, New Mexico fire; 2007 County of San Diego firestorm; 2007 Windy Ridge, Orange County fire; 2008 Forest Lawn, Los Angeles fire, and the 2011 San Diego Great and Eagle fires. These assessments have included development of mitigation strategies, and coordinating closely with state, federal and local agencies to prioritizing risk and obtain approval for emergency funding.

Chuck Austin has been a member of the IECA since 1983 and has been the contractors’ advocate in that organization throughout his involvement. He has conducted several programs for the IECA on machinery and material usage by contractors. He has also been the Chairman of the Standards Committee A involving Mulches, Tackifiers and Soil Amendments for several years. He helped develop and organize the Mountain States Chapter of the IECA, and has remained active with the High Altitude Revegetation organization. Chuck is a member of the Colorado Association of Golf Course Superintendents, Colorado Association of Lawn Care Professionals and Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. Chuck was Field Operations Manager for the Southern California (1993) and San Diego County (2003 & 2007) wildfire remediation efforts.

Ian Paton, P.E., CPESC, CFM is a Senior Water Resources Engineer with Wright Water Engineers in Denver, where he’s worked for over 12 years. Mr. Paton has a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Colorado, a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control and a Certified Floodplain Manager. He has worked on post-fire projects in both California and Colorado and most recently worked on the Fourmile Canyon burn area west of Boulder, where he was the Project Manager in charge of developing post-fire hydrologic models as well as the development of measures to mitigate debris flows, working on behalf of the Boulder County Transportation Department.

Julie Etra. MS, CPESC, has over 27 years of experience in the fields of erosion control; revegetation; restoration; botanical surveys; environmental documents; monitoring; and wetland delineation, mitigation, and restoration. Particular geographical areas of expertise include the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin. To date she has received 12 awards for successful and outstanding projects completed in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Great Basin. She has authored over 18 publications and completed more than 60 successful projects including two in Mexico. In 2009-2011, Ms. Etra’s company, Western Botanical Services, developed erosion control, restoration, weed management and fuel management plans, specifications and cost estimates for the Hawken and Peavine fires in Washoe County, NV.




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