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Officials test ground soil in burn scars to assess flood risk in Flagstaff area

Posted at 9:27 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-25 00:27:11-04

FLAGSTAFF — Officials in Northern Arizona have finished their field data that will help estimate how bad the Pipeline burned the soil. This information will help determine what the flood possibility is for communities below the wildfire burn scars.

An Emergency Response (BAER) team has finished their field work that has found that 56% of the acres burned have low soil burn severity, 34% of the fire has burned at a moderate level, and 5% burned at a high level.

The areas with moderate and high soil burn severity can alter or damage the soil that is on ground, “Moderate and high soil burn severity can alter or damage physical, chemical, and biological soil properties resulting in increased runoff, erosion, and negative effects to soil productivity,” officials with Coconino County National Forest said in a press release. “These soil properties include but are not limited to hydrophobicity (water repellency), soil organic matter content, soil pore space, soil cover (effective litter), and soil structure (degree of aggregation).”

The field data from the BAER team will be shared with hydrologists to help analyze models where flooding may be at greatest risk.

People who live near the Pipeline Fire burn scars say they have a lot of questions about what the city is doing to help protect them, “we’ve had no discussion at my house,” said Wes Lockwood, who lives along the Schultz Creek wash area.

Lockwood lives in Coconino Estates, one of the areas where city officials are urging residents to get flood insurance immediately.

The former astronomer who is now retired showed us along the wash area by his home how it’s filled with logs, debris, shrubs and trees — a concern of what will happen if debris flow comes down.

He uses his own rope and pulley system to go into the wash area to clean up what debris he can because of the fire hazard it poses. That same debris could now be apart of any debris flow that is pushed down stream.

“It’s a new ball game now,” he said. “Ee’re in unknown territory I think.”

That same area he tries to clean up eventually heads towards parts of downtown Flagstaff.

The city and county have both started to identify areas of concern.

Coconino County sent out a press release Friday afternoon about the flooding concerns because nine watersheds affected by the Pipeline Fire.

The county is warning people in north of Flagstaff, including Timberline, Wupatki Trails, Fernwood, and Doney Park about the increased risk of post-wildfire flooding to neighborhoods.

The county will share maps soon on what type of mitigation measures are recommended, where, and how much.

Officials wrote, “Residents needing sandbags may obtain them at the following locations:

  • Copeland Detention Basin
  • Brandis Way at Hwy 89
  • Brandis Way at Ostrich Lane
  • Campbell Ave at Hwy 89
  • Wupatki Trails at the end of Ventoso Court
  • Cromer Elementary School on Silver Saddle Rd.
  • Vacant lot adjacent to Cromer Elementary
  • Stardust Trail & Mercury Drive
  • Stardust Trail & McGee Road

Priority must be given to those homes recommended for mitigation, The District asks property owners of homes not identified for mitigation not to utilize sandbags given the very limited quantity available.

Sandbags should be placed within 10 feet of the home and only placed to mitigate impacts to homes NOT outbuildings or other structures. For more sandbag information, including station maps, please visit coconino.az.gov."

City officials for Flagstaff also flagging areas of concern, recommending homeowners in parts of Flagstaff get flood insurance immediately.

  • Creighton Estates
  • Forest Hills
  • Cheshire
  • Coyote Springs
  • Anasazi Ridge
  • Coconino Estates
  • Ridge Crest
  • Rock Ridge Estates
  • Clark Homes
  • North End
  • Downtown Flagstaff
  • Flagstaff Townsite or Southside and whose homes are located within a FEMA Zone A, AE, AH, or shaded X

On Friday, the city shared information about where residents on the west side of Flagstaff can get sandbags:

These locations are self-fill sandbags so homeowners are asked to bring shovels, and or buckets to help them make sandbags.

The first station is in Thorpe Park, at the parking lot at the north end of N. Aztec St. between Frances Short Pond and the softball fields. The second station is located at the intersection of Schultz Pass Rd and E Mt Elden Lookout Rd. (commonly called the Schultz “Y”). Maps of these locations are attached.

City officials wrote in a release, “More information on the impact of the Pipeline Fire on flood risks within the City of Flagstaff will be provided at the June 28 City Council meeting, which will be held in person at City Hall and streamed online at flagstaff.az.gov.

For related questions, please contact the City of Flagstaff Stormwater Section at 928-213-2472.”