What is it about?

Wildfires can lead to a range of challenges beyond their immediate damage. One less obvious issue is the occurrence of landslides during the rainy season. This movement of land and dirt can put people, nature, and infrastructure at risk, but unfortunately, we do not fully understand why it occurs. This study checked what happened to the land and soil after the 2019 Williams Flats wildfire in Washington. What scientists discovered is that the burned soil changes slowly over time. This affects how it soaks up water and snow. These changes can make the land less stable, which is a big problem for people and structures we build.

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Why is it important?

In the Western United States, wildfires are happening more often and getting worse. These fires change the soil, making the land less firm and posing a significant risk to nearby areas. However, because soil is always changing, the initial measurements taken right after a wildfire might not give a complete picture of how damage will develop over time. By understanding this process better, we can get ready for the long-term effects of wildfires. This knowledge can help us create plans to lessen the damage from this danger and make smart choices about land use and city planning. KEY TAKEAWAY: Wildfires leave lasting damage to soil, which impacts land stability and puts nearby areas at risk. Understanding these changes helps us create effective strategies to keep everyone safe in places prone to wildfires. This research relates to the following Sustainable Development Goals: • SDG 15 - Life on Land • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities • SDG 13 - Climate Action • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

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This page is a summary of: Changes in Soil Properties over Time after a Wildfire and Implications to Slope Stability, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, July 2023, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),
DOI: 10.1061/jggefk.gteng-11348.
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