2018 has been the most destructive fire year in California history – firefighters battled nearly 7,000 wildfires that scorched more than 1.5 million acres of land. California will feel the devastation of these fires for years to come. With the rainy season upon us, communities downslope of burn areas are at an increased risk of life-threatening flash flooding, mudflows, and debris flows.
Mudflows develop after a fire because the burned landscape becomes charred and slick. When rain falls on the hillsides of burn areas, the ground can’t absorb water as usual, so water flows downhill picking up ash and dirt. As it gathers material, the mudflow can become a debris flow as it picks up trees, rocks, and other materials. Debris flows can reach heights of 35 feet, carrying heavy objects like boulders, vehicles, and even small buildings.
After this historic year of fires, it is more important than ever that Californians are aware of their flood risks if they live downhill of areas affected by wildfires. Hazardous flood events can happen in a matter of minutes, so take the time now to understand your risk and be prepared. The risk of dangerous flooding after fires can persist up to five years after a major wildfire.
To help Californians stay prepared this flood season, the Department of Water Resources is participating in a series of activities and events during the week of October 20 – 26 to promote flood awareness and flood disaster preparedness tips. In response to record-setting fire seasons, the theme of this year’s California Flood Preparedness Week is ‘Flood After Fire.’
Flood Preparedness Tips:
- BE AWARE of your risk – Know whether your home is downslope of a burn area or in an area susceptible to flooding by visiting the FEMA Flood Map website. Pay attention to weather forecasts. Listen to local authorities.
- BE PREPARED – Always have an emergency evacuation kit ready. Have a plan for where you will go in an emergency and what to do with your pets. Learn more.
- TAKE ACTION – Follow evacuation orders immediately. If you live in a flood-prone area, check your home insurance to see if it covers floods.
Check out #CAFloodPrepWeek on social media for more flood preparedness tips from DWR and our partners.