Burn scars have been left by wildfires in several areas of the state. With rain on the way, the worry now turns to possible flash flooding. Experts look at several factors to access the danger.
Bradley Washa is the State Fuels Specialists for the Utah Bureau of Land Management. He notes concerns over flooding depend on how hot a fire burns, what’s left behind, and the steepness of the terrain.
When looking at the danger of possible flooding, Washa said they said they look at the conditions above someone’s property.
“We look at higher up on the hill trying to minimize the impacts higher up,” said Washa. “That way we once it gets down it’s not a sheet of mud and water coming down the hill.”
Washa showed us a small burnt area along Interstate 80 off the 1300 East exit which burned on the 4th of July. He pointed out there was still burned grass and pine needles which would still allow rain to be soaked up to prevent floods.
Sometimes fires burn so hot they create a layer on the ground that water can’t penetrate. Which causes runoff, and flash flooding. Washa notes it’s rare, but can happen.
After fires near Brian Head and Alpine they are keeping a close eye on the conditions. It’s also they type of rain which can make all the difference.
“If we have an all day shower thing you’re not going to have that bad of a negative impact where it’s going to have time to soak in,” said Washa. “Versus a thunderstorm which is going to dump a lot of rain in a short period of time.”
Anyone living near a major burn scar is encouraged to keep a close eye on weather reports and watch out for flash flood warnings.
Washa said flooding isn’t the only major concern in burned out areas.
“If you’re hiking on trails where there has been a fire and there is a dead tree,” said Washa. “The roots could have been compromised and that in higher winds could blow over.”
These dangers could continue through the fall or until enough vegetation has grown back.