Posted: Sep 9, 2013 4:31 PM by Dan Cimmino - MTN News
LOLO - The Lolo Creek Complex Fire is no longer raging along U.S. Highway 12, but officials still have cause for concern as ground erosion in the area may lead to future problems.
The typical protocol in the wake of a large wildfire is to evaluate the burn severity of the area.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are now working together to assess potential risks - such as mudslides or flash floods matriculating from the unprotected surface.
"The map that was produced by the satellites seem to be very accurate and we do have some concerns for some homes," explained NRCS Resource Conservationist John Blaine.
Researchers have been digging into the remaining soil left behind from the blaze to measure its hydrological consistency, to make sure potential homes or structures near the area won't be threatened.
They've also been checking individual drainages, and if their findings prove severe, then a proposal for water deflecting barriers or reseeding could be made with some federal funding. However, the remaining costs would come out of pocket from the landowners.
But from early preliminary findings, the level of worry isn't too high, but it really depends on the kind of storm.
"It's the July and August thunderstorms where we could get a half of rain say in 15 minutes to an hour; [there] might be some hail in it, and all those conditions then loosen the soil up, and it is more prone to then be a mud flow or debris flow," Blaine said.
He went on to say he believes the area falls into the category of low to moderate risk, but with the proposed window of concern stretching until late August of next year, one can never be too careful.
The agencies collaborating on a soil's report and hope to have that released by this time next week.