Addressing Fire Lines
The emergency nature of firefighting means that actions are taken to address the primary goals of protecting key values at risk (including homes and other important infrastructure) and ultimately putting out the fire. Out of necessity, these actions are often taken without considering other management objectives, such as watershed protection or erosional risk. Fire suppression repair and rehabilitation is the repair of damage caused directly from fire suppression activities, such as these dozer-created fire lines. It is not the repair of areas damaged by the fire; just the damage caused by fighting the fire. The authority to complete suppression repair work lies with the Public Resources Code (PRC), including PRC 4675 and 4676 at the California Legislative Information page.
CAL FIRE is the point state agency in developing fire-specific suppression repair and rehabilitation plans for each wildland fire on non-federal lands. Generally speaking, CAL FIRE’s policy is to install waterbreaks/waterbars on all fire lines, including both hand lines and dozer lines. This is generally done during mop-up, following an area being burned, and NOT if the activity will negatively affect active suppression activities. If there are fire lines among structures, waterbars will be installed with hand crews to minimize the impacts on residents and the residential area.
Fire suppression repair and rehabilitation activities may also include efforts to restore infrastructure damaged by fire suppression (again, not to repair infrastructure damaged by the actual fire). This may include fence repair, the restoration of berms/barriers on roads, drainage at ditch or watercourse crossings, etc. Special attention is given to suppression activity restoration in watercourses, including the removal of all slash, soil, and debris deposited during firefighting, and pulling away and stabilizing loose soil. Local slash or mulch will only be used in the case where it is either not flammable OR where the fire is adequately controlled so that the fire line won’t be compromised by the restoration activity.
If it appears that an erosional risk exists from fire suppression activity that has not been addressed, please contact your local CAL FIRE unit or regional office.