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BAER team begins research on the burn scar of the Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff

The information will help other agencies like the National Weather Service
The team did release a soil burn severity map this week. When the modeling is finished, it will help other agencies, including the National Weather Service.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 8:05 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Nearly 20-thousand acres burned in the Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff, prompting evacuations that have since been lifted. For now, the burn scar is a research site.

“We have about 17 people on the Tunnel Fire BAER team right now,” said Brendan Waterman, the team leader. He told Arizona’s Family on Wednesday that the team will look at how the flames impacted the landscape, the soil, and more. “The key thing is we can use our data to identify threats as they relate to flash flooding and debris flow potential,” he said.

You may remember when historic rainfall on the 2019 Museum Fire burn scar last summer led to devastating floods in Flagstaff communities. While the BAER team report for the Tunnel Fire is not finished yet, Waterman says, for now, it appears to be different than the more catastrophic fires Coconino County has recently seen because it’s on a less steep slope.

The BAER team did release a soil burn severity map this week. When the modeling is finished, it will help other agencies, including the National Weather Service. “The BAER team information is absolutely critical to us,” said meteorologist Brian Klimowski with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. “They will be doing the burn severity. They will be looking at risks to various components within and downstream of the burn scar.”

Klimowski says they will take the BAER team’s information and work with the county, city, and others to come up with flash flood risks. May and June are fire weather seasons in the high country, with monsoon right around the corner. “And when the monsoon season butts up against fire season, that’s a very hazardous time in northern Arizona because we often have fresh burn scars or active fires that might be influenced by thunderstorms,” Klimowski said.

He urges everyone to be careful this year as it predicts an extended fire season. Klimowski recommends staying in tune with weather conditions and local authorities.