From Flooding to Fire

It seems to be a typical transition anymore at the Conservation District.  My desk is a mountain of paperwork responding to spring/summer flooding–some even from last year! And now the hills are alive with the crackling of wildfires!

Post fire concerns for landowners include–what else?–Flooding!  The organic material at the ground surface often burns in a fire, removing a layer of water absorbable materials, from duff and leaves, to the soil itself, depending on the heat from the fire.  Areas that burned primarily as tree/crown fires aren’t generally as severely affected, but if there was a ground fire, especially if there was a lot of dead material (hello, beetle kill!) laying on the surface, there may be significant areas where the soil is affected.

These bare areas will tend to have rapid runoff from rain and snow melt.  And if the trees above the area burned, areas that were formerly shaded and melted more slowly, will now melt much more rapidly.

Another major concern post-fire is the spread of invasive species.  Leafy spurge, knapweed and toadflax are the big winners around here after a fire, sometimes showing up before the snow falls even.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service has a pretty good web page on fire resources, from preparing your property for wildfire, to recovering from a wildfire.

Some of their fact sheets:

For more information, contact the Conservation District at 406-449-5000 ext. 5 or the NRCS at 406-449-5000 ext. 3.