Flood After Fire: When the flames are out, a threat remains
FLOODING FROM BURN SCARS
Many people are not aware of the threat of flood that comes after fire. Our State of Utah partners at the Utah National Guard and Utah Department of Transportation helped protect communities below the Pole Creek Fire and Bald Mountain Fire burn scars from potential flooding.
Over a 17-hour period, dozens of UDOT employees placed approximately 3,000 feet of concrete barrier near Elk Ridge, Woodland Hills and Covered Bridge, the primary areas of concern for potential flooding. The National Guard and many community members helped place thousands of sand bags.
The time to act and prepare is now.
If you live below a burn scar:
- Contact your insurance agent and ask about flood insurance. It is a SEPARATE policy from your homeowners policy. Your regular homeowners policy does NOT cover flooding.
- Plan to maintain an flood insurance policy for at least 3-5 years after a wildfire if you live below a burn scar.
- Pay attention to weather reports, specifically flood watches and warnings. It doesn’t take much rain to bring down a hillside after it’s been burned.
- You may need to be prepared to evacuate.
- Don’t let anyone sleep in a basement during storms. A debris flow can fill basements with water and mud in a minute, blocking doors and trapping people.
- Bring important documents above basement level when there is a storm threat. Don’t let them get destroyed by a debris flow.
- Don’t drive through a flooded area. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.
- If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
- Don’t walk through flooded areas. As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
- Stay away from downed power fines and electrical wires. Electrocution is another major source of deaths in floods. Electric current passes easily through water.
- Look out for animals – especially snakes. Animals lose their homes in floods, too. They may seek shelter in yours.
- If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, the attic, and if necessary, the roof.
- Take dry clothing, a flashlight and a portable radio with you. Then, wait for help.
- Don’t try to swim to safety; wait for rescuers to come to you.
- If outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there.
Wade Mathews is the public information officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.