If you’ve been watching the news for the past few months-and I hope images on a newscast are as close as you’ve come-you’re aware of the many wildfires that have been burning around the US and Canada. (And elsewhere in the world-Siberia, Malaysia, and parts of Europe have also been especially active.)
Just as in 2012, this year’s fire season is a busy one, exacerbated by widespread drought. Some fires burn in mostly uninhabited areas, but increasingly, as we build in more remote places, they’re threatening homes, commercial property, and roads. Dealing with the aftermath in these “urban interface” regions is tricky. The denuded landscapes are prone to flooding, massive erosion, and landslides, but in most areas we do nothing because human safety and property are not greatly affected. Remediation is expensive, and deciding where to concentrate resources and which actions will be the most effective is both a science and a fine art.
It’s also, unfortunately, a job that many people are forced into suddenly and unexpectedly when a fire burns in their state or county, and most don’t have the breadth of experience to make rapid decisions. It’s not just about flooding and sediment control; there is a host of unfamiliar agencies to deal with and complex cost-benefit analyses to be performed.
A few experts around the country do have the experience. These are people who have dealt with the aftermath of dozens of fires and know what to look for, how to marshal resources, and where to find precious funding to get the job done. For the second time, we’re fortunate to be able to announce that some of them will be on hand in Myrtle Beach on August 19, teaching a one-day preconference course at StormCon called “Fire and Rain: Rapid Assessment and Emergency Mitigation Measures Following Wildfires.” The course will be led by Mike Harding, CPESC, an award-winning senior consultant with Geosyntec Consultants in San Diego and three-time past president of IECA, who has worked on post-fire damage assessment and control at more than 40 sites during his career. He’ll be joined by other experts to address such topics as funding; the roles of local, state, and federal agencies including FEMA and the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program; working with Burned Area Emergency Rehabilition (BAER) teams; identifying potential post-fire hazards and deciding what immediate actions to take; and, finally, selecting and applying specific BMPs.
If you live in a region that’s prone to wildfires-that includes almost all of us these days-spending a day here will be a wise investment. You can find more information about the course at stormcon.com/preconference.html, and information on the rest of the conference tracks at www.StormCon.com.An article coming up in our September/October issue will also include interviews with Mike Harding and others on addressing post-fire hazards.