UTAH (ABC4) – Despite an early beginning to the wildfire season, the Utah Division of Natural Resources reports that so far, July has seen fewer fire starts than July of the previous two years. The DNR also reports firefighters have suppressed the majority of new fire starts this month within the first 24 hours. However, even after the fire is out, the scorched areas left behind pose a risk.
The burned area left in the wake of a wildfire is called a burn scar. DNR’s Weber County Fire Warden Rick Cooper explains, “Basically, it’s the destroyed or damaged vegetation after we have a grass fire or forest fire.”
Cooper tells ABC4 even after a fire is out, the burn scar can create its own problems. “It does pose a risk of a flood, or a flash flood, coming off that hillside,” he states.
The potential risk increases depending on the type of burn scar.
A cold burn scar is the result of a less intense fire that left some vegetation behind. Cooper adds, “Which lessens the ability, or lessens the risk, of a mudslide or a flashflood coming off of those burn scars.”
The other type is a hot burn scar in which the intense fire leaves no vegetation behind. Cooper says when rain hits this type of burn scar “it simply washes off the mountainside and into people’s backyards or into the roadways.”
Cooper says the slope of a burned area and the amount of rain also play a big factor in how bad a flood will be. However, there is some good news. Cooper says there are methods to help lessen flood risk. “We can put up water bars, we can put up straw bales, straw rolls to catch that debris as it’s coming down,” Cooper explains.
He says crews can place these barriers to help direct flood water off into areas with more vegetation. He says many motorists see straw rolls placed on steep hillsides along highways. These are placed there to help prevent flooding along highways.
Cooper reminds Utahns that the best way to prevent flooding is to prevent human-caused fires in the first place. “You know, it’s halfway through the fire season,” he continues, “and on behalf of all fire suppression and fire management officers out there, let’s just have fun, and let’s just be safe, and let’s keep the fires spooky quiet.”
Cooper tells ABC4 the Alaskan Fire in Ogden Canyon is an expample of a cold burn scar and poses some risk for flooding.