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After the Fire: Resources for Recovery

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*Updates will be made as new information is developed.*

NRCS may receive funding to help with fire recovery efforts for agricultural and private, non-industrial forestland owners. Program and application announcements will be made as funding becomes available. Please check this site frequently for updates. (Updated August 29, 2018).

Personal and Public Safety

It is important after a wildfire to ensure your own personal safety and that of the public. Walk your property and look for safety issues along property boundaries, roads and buildings. Beware of these serious risks:
  1. Avoid damaged or fallen power poles and lines, and use caution around unstable, upright burned trees and power poles.  Watch out for ash pits.
  2. Are there fire damaged trees within one tree height of  your home, other structures or access roads? “Hazard trees” (those trees with unstable boles or branches which are likely to break and fall) can be a serious safety problem following the fire.  They can also develop over time as fire induced mortality occurs.   Identify hazard trees and take action to have them removed or otherwise addressed in a safe manner.  Refer to the Hazard Tree Removal Fact Sheet listed under “Recovery Resources”. It is recommended that a hard hat be worn when inspecting fire impacted forests.
  3. After a fire the risk of flash floods, debris and mud flows are much greater. Consider the following to evaluate your flooding risks:

-  How close is your house and outbuilding to the closest streams, seasonal draws or valley bottoms (floodplains?)

-  Could your home become inaccessible?  Do you have a bridge or culvert, stream or drainage crossing that could be destroyed by a flash flood?

Manage Your Risk and Protect Your Property

If your home survived the wildfire, it may still be at risk of post-fire flooding or debris flows. Consider the following questions and steps to take to manage your risk and protect your property:

  1. Are there National Weather Service rain gauges in your watershed.  If so, is there an emergency alert system associated with them?

  2. The following fact sheet provides useful information regarding fire induced flooding:

    Flood After Fire Fact Sheet

  3. Remove debris in and near culverts and cross drains. This includes rocks, grass clippings, decking, structures, vegetation and fences.

  4. Secure/anchor outdoor items. Move lawn furniture, barbecues, propane tanks, pool covers, etc. inside.
  5. Identify sources of surface runoff onto property and around your house. (See Hillside Home Drainage Fact Sheet.)

Rehabilitation and Restoration

It may be difficult to visualize the rebirth of a forest or rangeland following a wildfire. However, nature is well equipped for regenerating fire adapted species such as ponderosa pine and shrub-steppe species. You may soon notice some grasses and plants recovering on the landscape. Revegetation of burned areas is also imperative for restoring the health of the ecosystem.  In some cases natural recovery may be too slow or will not result in adequate vegetative composition to meet your management objectives; in these situations more active management inputs become necessary.

Forest Management

  1. Refer to "After the Burn: Assessing and Managing Your Forestland After a Wildfire" and to "Wildfire Recovery Tips for Idaho" for overall guidance for your recovery efforts.
  2. Individual fire damaged or stressed trees may die or they may survive.  Individual trees that suffer scorch damage can be evaluated in order to make informed management decisions.  To assess scorch damage resources, click here.
  3. Individual trees or stands may develop insect or disease problems as a result of the fire.  Information regarding fire induced mortality can be accessed here. The decision to conduct salvage harvest operations can be based in part on this assessment, as well as from the assessment of scorch damage.  Contact a professional forester for assistance in deciding to conduct salvage harvests.
  4. In the longer term, with or without salvage, you've most likely suffered capital assets losses because of the fire.  For information regarding tax tips for forest landowners following catastrophic loss, click here.
  5. Further protection against insect outbreaks can be gained by making sure that wood slash is dried prior to entering the fall moist period, that overstocked clumps of trees are thinned, and that the most damaged trees are removed while retaining those that are still healthy and vigorous.
  6. Identify areas where stands are understocked and where natural tree reproduction is unlikely to occur.  Make decisions regarding tree planting: consult with a professional forester for assistance.
  7. Evaluate your property to determine where severe damage has occurred to grass stands and riparian areas, and take appropriate management actions to rehabilitate these resources.  Reseeding guidance is addressed in the "Wildfire Recovery Tips for Idaho" publication.  A fall dormant seeding done by mid-October should result in immediate benefits on severely burned grazing lands by the following spring.

Don't delay replanting efforts; fire adapted understory species will sprout and re-establish on burned sites.  This will and can make tree and grass/shrub plantings difficult to establish because of the adverse plant competition.

Soil Erosion Protection

Fires can cause the soil in your area to become very unstable and prone to erosion. Soil erosion can cause a significant increase in sediment and debris delivery to streams.  Your risk of erosion will be greater if:
  • The forest litter layer has been burned away and bare mineral soil is exposed.
  • The forest canopy has been burned off, reducing rainfall interception.
  • The fire burned with high heat intensity, causing soil moisture repellency ("hydrophobic" soils).
  • Slopes are steep.
  • Rainfall comes in in large quantities and in short time periods.
  • The soil is highly erodible.
  • Slopes unslope from your property are also burned and at risk from erosion.
The high rate of erosion can cause streams to fill in, reducing their ability to pass flood water.  NRCS has several practices and treatments that can help to keep soil in place and not in your streams.  The following treatments can help to protect your erodible soil.   
  • Diversions
  • Dikes
  • Straw Waddles
  • Log Erosion Barriers
  • Sandbags Barriers
  • Straw Bale Sediment and Dikes
  • Rock Check Structures
  • Natural duff, litter and debris 
  • Mulch

Financial and Technical Assistance

NRCS is available to assist with site specific questions and provide technical assistance for landowners as they begin to restore the landscape following the fire. ***Financial assistance may become available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and/or the Emergency Watershed Protection Program for recovery efforts, please check back frequently.*** (updated September 17, 2015).

For more information on how to apply for EQIP, check out the Idaho NRCS EQIP webpage.

Recovery Resources

Northern Idaho Additional Recovery Resources

Farm Service Agency Fact Sheets

Listed here are programs that FSA offers to agricultural producers suffering from the effects of fire.  Note: Must be naturally caused fire in order to be eligible for our programs.

  • Emergency Loan (PDF; 236 KB) – FSA’s Farm Loan Program offers an Emergency Loan for producers who are suffering from drought. Emergency Loans are available in conjunction with disaster declarations. The current rate  (as of 5/5/15) for actual production losses is 3.5%.
  • Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) (PDF; 295 KB) – Provides benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality as a result of adverse weather. LIP also covers attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by federal government and pays 75% of market value on the day the animal died.
  • Emergency Conservation Program (PDF; 226 KB) - ECP Drought / ECP Fire / ECP Flood: Pays for wells to be dug, pipelines and troughs as well as spring development. ECP Fire: pays for fencing, replanting pasture, etc. ECP is automatically authorized when a county is classified as D4 drought. Otherwise, the County Committee of the area affected by the drought, must request implementation of ECP through the State Office.
  • Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) (PDF; 313 KB) -  is a catch all for a multitude of potential losses not already covered through the above existing disaster programs. ELAP will pay for water hauling, which we have found as one of our biggest uses of the program in previous drought years. Additionally, it can pay for fire losses and losses to pasture on private land. The main limitation of ELAP is that only 20 million was allocated Nationally. This means that the payments will be reduced by a factor dependent on National demand for the program.

Assistance Resources

For more information, please contact your local NRCS field office.