Difference between revisions of "Basin-Indians Wildfire in California's Central Coast Region"

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m (Basin Complex Fire Erosion and Debris Flows moved to Basin-Indians Fire Erosion and Debris Flows: The Basin Complex Fire and the Indian fire merged, and many of the reports estimating the damage of the fire combine the two into one large event.)
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Revision as of 08:59, 3 February 2010

A watershed-related issue examined by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


The Basin Complex Fire burned 162,818 acres of then northern Santa Lucia mountains between June 21st and July 28th, 2008[1]. The Basin Complex Fire merged with the Indian Fire, which had started nearby on June 8th[2]. There is major concern about the possibility of flooding, debris flows and large scale erosion in the 2-3 years following the fires[3]. These events potentially endanger the Big Sur and Carmel Valleys, Salinas farm Land, Steelehad habitat, highway 1 and numerous state parks. There has been work aimed at understanding the effects of fire on soils, debris flows and erosion. There is little understanding of the effects of post-fire erosion and debris flows on river habitat, and specifically steelhead habitat.


The Basin Complex Fire burned 162,818 acres in the northern Santa Lucia Mountains. The fire burned parts of the Upper Carmel River, Arroyo Seco, San Antonia, Rat Creek, Big Sur and Little Sur watersheds[4]. Much of the land burned is within the National Forest System lands on the Monterey District of Los Padres National Forest[5].

Resource/s at Stake

There is a broad range of resources at risk after the fires. They include the Big Sur and Carmel Valley communities, Salinas Valley farm land, highway 1, numerous state parks and camp grounds, private residents and essential steelhead habitat.


  • The communities of Big Sur and Carmel Valley
  • Salinas Valley farmers
  • Steelhead trout and those concerned with their well being
  • Monterey County
  • Users of Highway 1
  • United States Forest Service

Laws, Policies, & Regulations

There are two pieces of legislation that dominate national policy regarding wildfire management. The National Forest Plan was a federal policy responding to the growing concern of dangerous levels of fuels in national forests. The main focuses of the plan are firefighting, rehabilitation, hazardous fuel removal, community assistance and accountability. The original plan released $108 million for fuels removal in 2000; this number increased to $401 million by 2005.

To identify where funds were most necessary, a Ten Year Comprehensive Strategy directed the collaborations of local, tribal, state, and federal land mangers along with scientific and regulatory agencies. The four goals of the plan are improved information sharing, monitoring of accomplishments and forest conditions to improve transparency, a long-term commitment to maintaining the essential resources for implementation, a landscape-level vision for restoration of fire adapted ecosystems, and an emphasis on the importance of using fire as a management tool (Ten Year Comprehensive Strategy 2006).

Assessment of the burned area fell under the jurisdiction of the US Forestry Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire. The policies of both agencies are to provide rapid assessments of the burned areas and suggest best management practices to avoid further damage from erosion and debris flows.


The fire removes organic material and creates hydrophobic soils, which decreases the infiltration rate of rainfall and, in turn, increases the rates of erosion and flow[6].


  • There has been a lot of work done by the US Geological Survey[7] to understand post-fire debris flows.
  • There has been some work on the long term effects of fire on watershed processes[8].
  • There is a fair amount of knowledge on the life history and habitat requirements of Steelhead[9].


  • The California Department of Fish and Game has developed a well respected method for in stream fish habitat assessment[2].
  • High resolution LIDAR and or aerial photography can help to detect erosion and debris flows.

Future Research

Future work should seek to understand the impacts of rain on the burned area. The greatest hazards to the communities of Big Sur is flooding and debris flows. The in stream habitats of threatened steelhead will also be effected by erosion and debris flows. There is little understanding of the effects of post-fire erosion on steelhead habitat.


  1. KUSP Basin Complex Fire News Summary
  2. Executive Summary: Basin Complex Fire/Indians Fire
  3. Summary of Debris Flow Risk Model
  4. Basin Complex Fire SEAT Report
  5. Executive Summary: Basin Complex Fire/Indians Fire
  6. Need source
  7. Need source
  8. Need source
  9. [1]



This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.