Flash flooding near the Hayden Pass Burn Scar damages structures

Posted at 4:42 PM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 18:42:50-04

The Hayden Pass Fire burned more than 16,000 acres in Fremont County in the summer of 2016, but the burn scar is still impacting the area.

Heavy rains sprinted down the burn scar Tuesday, causing a massive flash flood from Big Cottonwood Creek into the Arkansas River. In just a matter of minutes, the normally quiet creek became a raging river, even overtaking Highway 50 at one point.

Randy Carricato saw it evolve.

"Cottonwood Creek was coming down pretty bad. It wasn’t black like last year after the fire, but it was dark brown," he said. "It was pretty bad. So loud it was deafening. Couldn’t hear yourself think, it was that loud."

Carricato was one of dozens of people to head up County Road 40 to help however he could, but the damage at a family member’s home was already done.

"There was an outhouse. There was a shed. There was a tractor," Carricato said. "Several outbuildings are gone. The tractor’s an old, old tractor made out of iron. I don’t know where it’s at."

Fremont County Emergency Manager Jill Filer said Tuesday’s flood was the worst the burn scar has ever seen. In fact, the flash flood displaced several vehicles, washed out roads, and even destroyed a home.

Fremont County Undersheriff Megan Richards said the structure of the home is still standing, but the entire interior is gone.

"There’s a lot of damage. The creek came through very wide and heavy with the debris and stuff like that," Richards said. "I mean, when you’re talking it moves a house, that’s a huge body of water."

The mud eventually came over the top of Highway 50, prompting about an hour-long closure while CDOT crews worked to clear the debris. It also brought trees and debris over a bridge off County Road 39, which caused the county to close it.

They’re still assessing the damage, knowing this frequent flash flooding is now a part of living near the Hayden Pass burn scar.

"This is something that isn’t going to get better overnight," Richards said. "Obviously, we’re working towards building back mitigating and trying to fix some problems, but this is going to be a long time coming."

The sheriff’s office did close County Road 40 to most traffic, as it was hit the hardest by the flash flood. Richards told News 5 she expects it to open some time Wednesday, damage pending.