Isolated Storms Bring Wind And Threat Of Floods To Flagstaff Soon After Museum Fire

Published: Friday, July 26, 2019 - 10:13am
Updated: Friday, July 26, 2019 - 10:19am
Southwest Area Incident Management Team
Challenges for firefighters include strong erratic winds, snags, heavy fuels, boulder fields and steep terrain near the fire perimeter.

About 700 firefighters are still battling the Museum Fire, which has burned more than three square miles of rugged terrain north of Flagstaff. The fire is 12% contained.

Crews are working on closing up the line around the fire today in anticipation of drier weather early next week. Helicopters dropped more than 9,600 gallons of retardant to slow the spread of the fire Thursday. Challenges for firefighters include snags, heavy fuels, boulder fields and steep terrain near the fire perimeter.

Incident Command spokesman Dick Fleishman said another challenge has been dealing with erratic winds.

"We get a lot of terrain-influenced winds that can accelerate that especially on steep slopes and drainages," Fleishman said. "We could have thunderstorms come in that could make those winds really squirrelly and high velocities as well up to 30 mph gusts."

Fleishman said when a fire burns through dense forest like this one, the physical properties of the soil can change.

"Normally soil is very porous and acts like a sponge," Fleishman said. "But if we have fire burned soil, which we call hydrophobic soil, it creates like a waxy layer and closes up those pores so our sponge gets plugged."

Then if a big storm hits the burn scar, that layer of dirt and ash can come crashing down the side of the mountain. Volunteers are helping 600 or so people in its path create barriers around their homes and buy flood insurance. A Burned Area Emergency Response team is also working to help minimize impacts.

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