Exclusive tour of Pipeline Burn Scar shows hope for Flagstaff flooding

The burn scar left behind by the Pipeline Fire will be impacting Flagstaff neighborhoods for years and Arizona’s Family got an exclusive tour.
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 8:32 PM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -The Coconino National Forest took us up into the hills of Flagstaff to see what was left behind after a wildfire back in June. The pipeline burn scar torched thousands of acres of land around the Weatherford Trail. Nearly every tree was charred and dead in some parts of the trail. “I think very few of them will make it through. We were always worried about fire in this area,” Deputy Ranger with the Coconino National Forest Nick Mustoe said.

Mustoe led Arizona’s Family reporter Michael Raimondi and photographer Kraig Stern on an exclusive tour of the burn scar. First, they went up a dirt road on Elden Springs Road. Then, after ditching the car, they hiked up a short trail and were surrounded by dead vegetation. Mustoe said wildfires are natural, but the pipeline killed more trees than a typical wildfire. “What is every lever we can pull to stop these devastating wildfires to happen but allow fire to play its natural role in the landscape? Mustoe says the forest service and county are working on mitigation projects. They have not announced a final plan, but they are working on the best solutions to try and prevent major wildfires.

While so much near the trail was dead, there were some signs of life. Weeds and some smaller plants have already started to grow back. With above-average rain in Flagstaff this summer, the vegetation is coming back. “We’ve been super fortunate this year to see a bit of grasses and flowers coming back into these areas,” Mustoe said. He explained that vegetation could help prevent some flooding issues people saw east of the mountains all summer. “We’ve certainly seen road impacts. We’ve had roads erode away and trails erode away.”

People living miles away in Doney Park want those plants to grow back. They’ve been dealing with flooding and mud since the pipeline fire. When it rains, water rushes downhill, carrying debris and mud which has shut down roads and destroyed people’s property.

Mary Snyder has lived in Doney Park for 18 years and says she has never dealt with flooding until this summer. “It was overwhelming. Its still overwhelming that none of my damage has been repaired,” she said. “I love living here. I love the weather, but I’m done with the rain.”

Mud is now caked nearly a foot deep around Snyder’s driveway and front yard. It’s hard and tough to shovel out. Thankfully, her friends helped stack thousands of sandbags around her home a few months ago. That prevented the mud from getting any closer to her house. She says her foundation now has creaks, and water is getting in from the floor. Snyder is hoping the plants regrow quickly on the burn scar. She wants to retire at her home and doesn’t want the water to keep bringing debris down and destroying her property.

To help Mary Snyder repair her home, click here.