Returning Home After a Wildfire

Coming home after a wildfire can be difficult. The damage is often unknown until the homeowner returns days or weeks later. Before returning home ALWAYS check with officials before attempting to return to your home. Once home check for the following:

  • Check grounds for hot spots, smoldering stumps, and vegetation.
  • Check the roof and exterior areas for sparks or embers.
  • Check the attic and throughout your house for any hidden burning sparks or embers.
  • Check for fire damage to your home, turn off all appliances and make sure the meter is not damaged before turning on the main circuit breaker.
  • Check the well or pump-house to ensure it is in working order.
  • Contact 911 if any danger is perceived.
  • Consult local experts on the best way to restore and plant your land with fire-safe landscaping.

Find out more about what to do Before, During and After a Wildfire and when Returning Home After a Wildfire.

Watershed Impacts After a Wildfire

The after effects of a wildfire on watershed can be drastic causing immediate issues and long term effects. Rates of erosion and runoff can increase to dangerous levels following wildfires in California. Normally trees, shrubs, grass and other protective groundcover help prevent soil detachment and allow rainfall to infiltrate into the soil. After a wildfire the extreme heat can bake the soil to the point that water is unable to penetrate and can cause excessive run off in a post wildfire area.

Before leaving a burned area, CAL FIRE will implement post-fire suppression repair efforts. This work includes:

  • Installing waterbars (ditches cut at an angle into the soil) on dozer firelines.
  • Removing soil and organic debris from streams where fire lines crossed, and mulching fire line approaches where appropriate.
  • Bringing road drainage structures back to pre-fire condition.
  • Treating/reducing large concentrations of downed trees (slash) near roads and structures.
  • Repairing damaged land improvements (e.g., water pipes, fences, gates) related to suppression activities.
  • Addressing public safety issues, such as flagging/marking hazard trees threatening roads or structures for removal by professional fallers, and mapping/reporting downed power and phone lines.

Following selected wildfires, California state Watershed Emergency Response Teams (WERTs) are deployed to conduct post-fire assessments.

  • WERTs identify types and locations of threats to life-safety and property (i.e., collectively known as “Values-at-Risk” or VARs) from debris flows, flooding, rockfall, and surface erosion that are elevated due to wildfire.
  • WERT members develop preliminary emergency protection measures for the identified locations, and communicate the findings to responsible local emergency management agencies.

Local jurisdictions may be able to obtain funding for implementation of emergency protection measures and mitigation projects from FEMA or the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This work may include installation of structure protection for identified Values-at-Risk, such as K-rails, sand bags, and Muscle Wall.

Even with these efforts, post fire communities are still at risk and need to be prepared for flood, debris flows, mud (hyperconcentrated) flows, and surface erosion. Here are ways that you can be prepared:

Learn more at: www.StormReady.gov