What are post-fire risks in Southwestern landscapes?
Submitted by ecourtri on April 3, 2017 - 6:24pm
The greatest risk of damage due to post-fire flood or erosion events typically follows large and high severity fires. However, the presence of high severity burn sites does not necessarily predict damage from post-fire flood events. Local conditions within watersheds and the nature of precipitation events are important predictors of potential risk. Post-fire assessment teams are instrumental in determining whether infrastructure or resources are at risk of damage due to post-fire events. Where risk is high, fire has removed vegetation cover and created soils that repel water. As a result, more water runs off burned areas generating flash floods, erosion, and destructive debris flows. These events can overwhelm road and dam infrastructure and impact water quality and wildlife habitat. The Southwest is especially vulnerable to post-fire flooding and erosion because fire season is closely followed by a monsoon season, characterized by intense rainfall events. For this reason, rapid response is required to get emergency and flood control measures in place before intense summer thunderstorms occur.