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As Monsoon 2021 ends, Forest Service warns flooding near burn scars could be a reality for years to come

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 8:07 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Record breaking rainfall during Monsoon 2021 resulted in lots of flooding and debris flows on fresh burn scars. As Forest Service leaders prepare those burn scars for the next monsoon, they warn it could take years to get burned areas back to pre-fire conditions.

Punky Moore, Fire Communications Specialist for Southwestern Region Forest Service, said the Burn Area Emergency Response Team (BAER Team,) has been assessing those burn scars before the fire was even contained in 2020 to try and prevent future damage to life, property, or natural resources.

The longer-term rehabilitation begins after the fire is out. She said there really is no way to eliminate future flooding ahead of next year’s monsoon because vegetation will take years to regrow.

“That is the reforestation that we talk about, that’s the fire monitoring and the seeding and the planting and treating the weeds and things like that. That’s done three to four, five years after the fire,” Moore said.

Tiffany Davila, Public Affairs Officer, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, said it’s important for people to understand the danger they’re in if they are near burn scars during monsoon and rain events.

“We have worked with partners like NAU or U of A where we will go in and plant seedlings or plant seeds in some of those areas, but you have to understand it still takes time for that stuff to grow,” Davila said. “It’s not going to grow into a huge tree overnight so it’s just important people understand the dangers in the burn scar area. Especially where we’ve had the telegraph, mescal, bighorn, even the museum fire.”

She said the record-breaking rain experienced this monsoon resulted in flooding, that left washes filled with debris and ash. She said Monsoon was a blessing in disguise and without the rain, Tucson could’ve been dealing with a much deadlier problem.

“Last year we didn’t have any rainfall we didn’t have a Monsoon season we just had dry lightning and wind and our fire season was pushed out until October,” Davila said. “As far as the moisture goes, yes we were very thankful, because not only did it decrease our fire activity but it brought us out of that exceptional drought status and that affects everyone.”

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