Northern Arizonans prepare for potential flooding, especially near burn scars

People in northern Arizona are worried about burn scars from recent wildfires and are doing a few things to protect their homes.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 8:21 PM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — As the High Country continues to contain the Pipeline and Haywire fires, the beginning of the monsoon carries a new but familiar threat for residents in Northern Arizona: flooding. Many locals like Trent Williams aren’t taking any chances when it comes to flooding potentially occurring. “Just trying to get ready,” Williams said. “And hopefully nothing bad happens. But just being prepared, you know?” Williams loaded dozens of sandbags into his pickup truck just in case. And he’s far from the only one thinking of ways to reduce the risk of damage.

“Today, I took down four 90-year-old pine trees the fire destroyed in our yard,” Flagstaff resident Rob Wilson said. “We’re trying to get that kind of stuff done before the floods that inevitably come after this during the monsoon season.” Wilson remembers when flooding from the 2010 Schultz Fire flooded his driveway several times. More than a decade later, Coconino County Deputy Manager Andy Bertelsen says that Schultz Fire continues to have an impact when it comes to flooding. “What we are learning is that fire impacted previous burn scars,” Bertelsen said. “Unfortunately, we learned a lot from that fire in terms of post-fire flood mitigation. It did reburn some of those areas.”

Bertelsen says in addition to sandbags, some of the ways the county tries to prevent flooding from these burn scars is by protecting nearby watersheds, as well as repairing damaged structures from past flooding.

“The level of preparedness going into the season, unfortunately we keep getting better and better at this,” Bertelsen said. “It’s not something we want to be great at, but it’s something we need to be great at.” But even with increased preparation and attention to detail, locals like Wilson know that nature has a way of interfering with any advanced plans. “You can’t predict where it’s going to happen,” Wilson said. “The water takes different paths every time. So everybody’s on full alert right now.” Bertelsen says another significant component for Coconino County is the input from locals. There’s a virtual community meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. that anyone can join.