The Link Between Fires And Flash Floods

July 11, 2013

Firefighters completely contained the Yarnell Hill Fire this week, but the landscape surrounding the burn area will likely be affected for years to come. That is partially because wildfires and flash floods often go hand in hand. When fire season ends and monsoon season starts in Arizona, it can be a mixed blessing.

Megan Schwitzer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, explained that when a wildfire burns vegetation and roots, it can also deeply burn the soil. That can leave the ground nearly water resistant when rain comes.

“So especially with a very fresh burn area, like the ones we’re watching this season, it can be a really high flood potential,” Schwitzer said, “because all of that soil and ash and mud and rock that’s up there is basically converted, immediately, to runoff.”  

Schwitzer said this damage can last anywhere from three to five years. That is why the National Weather Service is paying special attention to the sites of the Yarnell Hill Fire and recently contained Doce fire – and will continue to far into the future.

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