Before the fire: Assessing post-wildfire flooding and debris-flow hazards for pre-disaster mitigation

Ann M. Youberg, Joseph B. Loverich, Michael J. Kellogg, Jonathan E. Fuller
2019 NHESSD  
<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Increasing size and severity of wildfires, and the expanding built environment into the wildland-urban interface makes it imperative that local governments identify, prepare for and reduce risks to people and infrastructure from wildfires and the aftermaths of fires. Here we report on a pre-wildfire assessment of post-fire hazards in Coconino County, Arizona, the mitigation measures identified and implemented as a result of the study, and proposed changes to the
more » ... d changes to the assessment methodology for upcoming studies. Results from the Coconino County study indicate that up to 34&amp;thinsp;% of the buildings, and up to 26&amp;thinsp;% of the critical facilities countywide are at some level of increased risk of post-fire flooding if no actions are taken to reduce the risk of severe wildfires. As many as 593 homes (2,191 parcels) in Coconino County, as well as 13 dams and other critical facilities, may be impacted by post-fire debris flows. In two smaller areas of detailed study, flood peaks could increase as much as 4&amp;ndash;5 times the existing 100-year flood levels, with up to a 350&amp;thinsp;% increase in the number of buildings in flood-prone areas. Debris flows will likely be limited in aerial extent but could impact a much larger area from following floods and sediment-laden flows. Mitigation measures identified and implemented as a result of this study include County Coconino County coordination with the Kaibab National Forest in regard to forest health projects, development of a post-wildfire emergency action plan for the City of Williams, development of a Post-Fire, Pre-Disaster plan for the City of Williams and educating the City of Williams and County officials and business stakeholders of the post-fire flood risk. Other mitigation measures that are still in the planning stage include installation of additional early flood warning system gages, and increasing building and infrastructure resiliency through channel conveyance improvement and utility protection projects. For two upcoming assessments, we plan to use a new statistical methodology to develop burn severity maps using historical burns, and we plan to employ a new process-based debris-flow model developed for use in Arizona to assess debris-flow inundation limits.</p>
doi:10.5194/nhess-2019-74 fatcat:ggs5pd7uonby7jjeuygqf3vg5i