Flagstaff Preparing For Significant Floods Due To Museum Fire

By Scott Bourque, Tom Maxedon
Associated Press
Published: Sunday, July 28, 2019 - 4:27pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - 10:10pm

A wildland firefighter at Museum Fire
A wildland firefighter at the scene of th Museum Fire on July 27, 2019.

Fire officials say the Museum Fire burning in Flagstaff is now 82% contained.

However, fire information officer Dick Fleishman says while the containment fight is going well, flooding is a major concern.

“One thing we’re doing today on the activity on the fire is our burned area emergency response team is on the fire making assessments of the burn severity. And they’ll actually be putting together a plan to actually minimize flood flows off of here,” Fleishman said.

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff is calling for a 50% chance of thunderstorms on Tuesday. As a result, the Coconino County Flood Control District is anticipating serious flooding in the eastern portion of Flagstaff due to the Museum Fire.

Flood Control administrator Lucinda Andreani says floods could come with very little warning and be extremely dangerous.

“Please do not allow children to play in any of the channels on Paradise and Grandview and the lower Monte Vista,” she said. “It’s very important that they stay out of those channels. Grandview itself could be carrying a very significant amount of moderate to high velocity water.”

Laurel Morales/KJZZ
Sunnyside neighbors help each other fill sandbags to prepare for Museum Fire flooding in 2019.

Emergency measures, including sandbag walls and concrete barriers, won’t stand up to the floodwaters from a significant storm. More than 26,000 sandbags have been filled as part of the preparation for possible floodwaters.

“If we get anything above a small scale normal rain event, the analysis is telling us we could have a significant flood event that could overwhelm what’s being installed,” said Andreani.

Andreani says the flood control workers expect to have emergency measures in place before Tuesday’s forecasted storms.

A federal team began collecting data Friday to analyze the soil and come up with ways to minimize flooding.

Fire officials say the blaze has scorched more than 3 square miles in the Coconino National Forest in Flagstaff since it started on July 21.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Authorities say smoldering fire on the steep slopes west of Oldham Park and Little Elden Mountain continues to challenge firefighters.

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