CHAPTER 8:  POST FIRE ACTIVITIES



8.1 OVERVIEW OF POST FIRE ACTIVITIES

Post fire activities can range from the very simple to the quite complex, depending on the size of the wildfire incident. With that in mind, the Incident Commander (IC) must choose an appropriate strategy to address all aspects of the post fire activities. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a framework for the IC to assess their needs before and during recovery operations.

There are four basic categories that make up the components of post incident operations:

The recovery process has two time phases, short term and long term. The short term phase includes: preliminary damage assessment, debris clearance, temporary repair of infrastructure and utilities, and immediate aid to individuals (shelter, food, sanitation, crisis counseling and financial). The long term phase includes: acquisition of financial aid, reconstruction of infrastructure and utilities, review of preventive legislation, zoning and building codes, and improvement of emergency response capability.

For these operations to be effective, it is necessary that communications are established and maintained. The public and responding agencies should be made aware that these systems are in place and available to those requiring assistance. The various types of assistance available may not be under the control of the fire department or district that has responsibility for the incident, however, the community affected and the responding agencies will look to that agency for information regarding recovery operations. As the level of operations expands, the share of financial responsibility may move from the local level to the state and/or federal level. Written procedures will provide a smooth transition from one level of financial assistance to the next. Further, these written procedures should define the documentation needed to obtain assistance at any given level.

\8.1.1. Financial

Financial aid in recovering from an incident may be available from private (insurance), local, state, or federal sources, depending on the incident scale. As with any incident, the importance of documentation of all actions is essential in recovering funds.

The private sector may involve a community member, the fire department or district depending on the nature of the loss incurred. Each fire department or district should have available: the name of the firm holding the insurance policy, the telephone number of the insurance company's office or representative, and what is covered by the insurance company (equipment, medical coverage, death benefits).

Table 8.1 identifies the type of assistance available from local, state and federal government sources, along with potential costs that may be recovered and documentation required. Government aid depends on the nature of the incident.

 

Table 8.1: Financial Assistance Available From Government Sources
Source of Assistance
Type of Assistance Available
State and local government aid Low interest loans, grants, tax relief and the loan of equipment on an emergency basis.
Federal relief - available through the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-288). Relief available to the community includes: 
  • Temporary housing [Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross, Salvation Army]
  • Disaster loans (Federal Small Business Administration)
  • Individual and family grants (FEMA)
  • Agricultural assistance (Farmers Home Administration)
  • Disaster unemployment assistance (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Legal services
  • Federal tax assistance (Internal Revenue Service)
  • Aid to the elderly (Social Security Administration)
  • Volunteer assistance (Red Cross, Salvation Army)
  • Highways (U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • Schools (U.S. Department of Education)
Potential Costs That May be Recovered
Documentation Required to Obtain Assistance
Damaged apparatus and equipment: 
  • Fire stations
  • Maintenance facilities
  • Communications centers
  • Apparatus
  • Operational equipment
Infrastructure on which the agency relies: 
  • Roadways and bridges
  • Water supply systems
  • Utilities
  • Communications services
  • Manpower overtime
  • Apparatus and equipment damage
  • Above normal usage of apparatus and equipment
  • Fuel utilization
  • Supplies used or damaged
  • Administrative costs
  • Purchasing
  • Vendor Payments
  • Legal Services

8.1.2 Psychological Aspects

In large scale, high intensity or long term operations, there may be a need to help both victims and responders to recover from the psychological effects from the incident. These effects, both short and long term are important considerations for responding agencies in maintaining an effective core of personnel. It is also important to the community that the victims are given proper care and support.

Agencies available to provide help in this area:

These type of events may be of such a nature that they are detrimental to the psychological well being of emergency responders and may therefore reduce their effectiveness in dealing with future emergency situations.

8.1.3. Operational Recovery & Evaluation

One of the major considerations in operational recovery is that the incident itself must be handled in a smooth and efficient manner. A primary problem that occurs, both during and after the incident, is convergence. Convergence is the massing of people at the incident site. These people can come from two areas: the general public (e.g.; curiosity seekers, individuals who desire to be part of the incident, volunteer assistance) and the news media (e.g.; reporters who want to report the news, get the story first or get an exclusive).

The likely presence of media at an incident requires anticipation of their arrival and an understanding of their function. A responsive media briefing center and a Public Information Officer (PIO) to address media concerns should be provided. This prevents the need for moving media scattered over a wide area to a central location, it provides accountability and allows the PIO to operate effectively. The designation of a PIO:

The purpose of an operational evaluation is to examine the effectiveness of operational planning as applied to the incident. It must be emphasized that its purpose is not to fix blame on any person or agency for any perceived problems that may have occurred during the incident. It is a systematic review of the incident for the purpose of identifying strengths and weaknesses in planning and management, with the goal of reinforcing the strong aspects of the plan and mitigating the weaknesses.

Appendix E contains a post-incident checklist which is useful in preparing for these activities.

8.1.4. Rehabilitation of Ecological Damage

The need for restoration initiatives after a wildland fire is important to the public landowners in the Central Pine Barrens. It is recognized that suppression efforts must, in some cases, damage the natural environment, however, the resultant management impacts are left to the landowning agencies for a long time to come. For instance, new firebreaks and or fire roads create new access points for illegal users. Land managers and law enforcement officials are continually struggling to limit illegal access to public lands by off road vehicles. Such illegal use not only ravages the natural environment but it also encroaches on the use of public lands by legal users such as hunters, hikers, bikers, etc.

For the enforcement agents, landowners and the public at large, this issue has become increasingly widespread and hence problematic for the use and enjoyment of these areas and financially draining for the limited staff at these agencies. Additionally, and equally important, the ecological effects of new disturbances are also negative in that they increase forest fragmentation, allow for the colonization of exotic species and generally destroy intact habitat. These effects are far-reaching as such disturbances cannot be easily remedied and the negative impacts can endure well into the future.

There are mitigation measures that can be implemented. One such example of wildland fire restoration is through the Global Re-Leaf Program sponsored by American Forests. A grant from American Forests was received for a three year period following the Rocky Point and Sunrise Fires of 1995. The grant allocates 15,000 tree seedlings per year to be replanted in areas that were cleared for firebreaks. The planting started in the spring of 1997 and will continue through 1999. The recipient of this grant was Suffolk County Community College and through the grant coordinator, several hundred volunteers were organized to plant the seedlings. Many of the cuts that were made have now been blocked from access and will have the opportunity to recover. To utilize programs such as this, it is recommended that the land manager undertake the post fire activities, include an assessment of damages to public lands and what is needed to repair or restore them.

8.2 PINE BARRENS FIRE REPORTING

The creation of a central database to track and record vital information concerning all fire activity within the Central Pine Barrens would provide many benefits. These benefits include:


8.R  RECOMMENDATIONS

To accomplish the primary goal of establishing the central database of all wildfire activity within the Central Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area, several procedures need to be adopted and accepted by the fire chiefs of the affected fire districts. Therefore the following actions are recommended: