The Burned Area Emergency Response Team recommended mulching as a treatment to help mitigate some of the post-fire impacts, specifically involving water run-off and sediment flows.
The BAER Team has contracted Bradco Environmental to fly the five helicopters used to mulch. Each helicopter is capable of carrying 2,200-3,200 pounds of mulch per load.
According to Mary Moore, the Waldo Canyon BAER implementation team leader, there are two types of mulch being dropped around the scar.
“We’ve got an ag-straw that is coming locally from Colorado farms as certified weed-free and cheatgrass-free. Then, we’re also taking some of the dead trees from the burn area now and chipping them up and creating a woodshred mulch,” said Moore.
Moore explained the shredded wood, or woodshred, is heavier and will be used on the more wind-prone areas, while the agricultural straw, or ag-straw, will be placed over mid-slopes and lower elevations.
The BAER Team used GPS and GIS to map out which area will be mulched, and which type of mulch will be used. That map can be found here.
“This is actually an expensive treatment to apply. The Ag-straw, it costs about $600-800 per acre. To apply the woodshred it would cost about $2,200 per acre. We’re mulching about 3,000 acres and the total cost of the contract is $4.8 million,” said Moore.
According to the BAER Team, woodshred will be used on 1,958 acres and ag-straw will be used on 1,080 acres.
“We’re really hoping that this treatment can reduce the response in the channels to give people enough time to get out of their homes to actually save some lives,” said Moore.
As for the burn scar’s current recovery, the BAER Team says the area is starting to regrow and the wildlife is returning.
“The burn scar is actually working on healing itself. Your native grasses will come back in one year and your shrubs will come back in about three to five years,” said Moore.