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Fire: Resources for Preparation, Monitoring, and Recovery

Forest fire with overlay of range grass and After the Fire text.Risk Reduction and Preparation: Before Wildfire

If you'd like information about how to improve the health of your resources, reduce fire risk, and be prepared in the case of fire, see the publications below and visit your local NRCS Field Office for conservation planning assistance.

Monitoring Fire Activity: During Wildfire

Many sources exist to monitor fire activity as it is happening; a few are listed below. In addition, contact local fire departments.

Recovery: After Wildfire

Wildfire is not only devastating to the land, but also to homes and lives. These resources will help inform you about new hazards that have been created as a result of a fire and programs that can help.

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. Check for the following:

  1. Are there fire damaged trees within one tree height of your home, other structures or access roads?
  2. 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. Contact your insurance agent or FEMA about The National Flood Insurance Program even if you are out of the 100 year flood plain. The following websites provide additional information:
  3. Remove debris in and near culverts and cross drains. This includes rocks, grass clippings, decking, structures, vegetation, fences across draws, etc.
    • When walking your property, look for items that may potentially plug stream channels and/or culverts, particularly at road crossings.
    • Additional runoff may cause channels to shift, creating additional streambank erosion.
  4. Secure/anchor outdoor items. Move lawn furniture, barbecues, pool covers, etc. inside.
  5. Identify sources of surface runoff onto property and around your house.
  6. Complete cleaning of all equipment prior to assignment on a fire. (Engines, heavy equipment, UTV/ATV’s, command and staff vehicles etc.)
  7. Donated hay from across the West can bring with it a high risk of invasive species infestations. Feed hay with unknown purity in confined areas. These feed grounds should then be monitored for undesirable species growth.

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.  The high rate of erosion can cause streams to fill in, reducing their ability to pass flood water. 

Insect Infestation Protection 

Insect infestations in the fire-killed and fire-stressed trees are a hazard.  

  • Remove or make sure woody slash is dried out.  
  • If clumps of live trees are overstocked, thin them.  
  • Remove the most damaged trees and leave the best.  

Rehabilitation and Restoration

After a fire, you should look for ways to rehabilitate your property to make it healthier and more fire resistant.  NRCS works with landowners to establish and implement conservation practices that restore forest and range land.  Common restorative actions include:

  • Installing erosion control measures
  • Planting trees
  • Thinning and removing damaged trees
  • Reseeding and replanting riparian areas
  • Make your forest healthy, sustainable and productive again. Contact your local NRCS office to develop a forest management plan and learn more about the technical and financial assistance we offer.

Wildfire in range and grassland settings can spread very quickly and result in large acreages of burned ground. Consequently, successful large-scale reseeding efforts can be difficult, and may be prohibitively expensive. However, localized reseeding efforts on smaller, critical areas such as water supplies and other infrastructure may be needed.

Montana rangelands are adapted to fire, a natural component of the landscape. The best recovery measure for burned areas is to promote natural regeneration, and rest from grazing is needed to make this happen most effectively. NRCS recognizes that deferred grazing presents a number of challenges for producers. In addition, post-fire recovery measures often may need to include restoring destroyed fences and livestock watering systems.

Contact your local NRCS office for assistance in developing plans to recover from wildfire that may have occurred on your property.

Financial and Technical Assistance

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

NRCS is available to assist with site specific questions and provide assistance for landowners as they begin to restore the landscape following the fire. NRCS is now providing technical assistance for producers who've been impacted by recent wildfires. Applications for financial assistance are accepted year round for our programs and we will release information on any new sign-ups specific to wildfire recovery if and when they are authorized.

Recovery Resources

Farm Service Agency Assistance

FSA offers programs for agricultural producers suffering from the effects of fire. Note: Must be naturally caused fire in order to be eligible for the programs. See FSA Fact Sheets for more information about each program, scroll down to Disaster Protection and Recovery.