WeatherWeather Science


Decker Fire burn scar produces flash flooding and runoff

bear creek decker fire Greg Heavener
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jul 31, 2020

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. — On Sunday, heavy rain fell on portions of the Decker burn scar in Fremont and Chaffee county, about 2 miles south of Salida. Reports of up to 2 inches of rain fell in a short amount of time on country road 101/49 off of HWY 50, along Bear Creek.

Burn scars can produce devastating flooding due to hydrophobic soil, and unsecured burnt vegetation. Especially within the first year after a fire, ash-flow and initial debris runoff are common.

From this event, portions of county road 101 washed out, temporarily blocking the road to residents coming in or out.

Surveyors from the National Weather Service in Pueblo found scoured out channels 5 to 10 feet deep. They also found mass amounts of boulders that were swept up in the flow.

National Weather Service Pueblo

The burn scar itself is a patchwork of intensely burnt trees and seemingly untouched vegetation. The areas with the hottest burn and higher risk of increased runoff are along Dorsey Creek and Bear Creek.

Greg Heavener, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo, says that flash flood concerns can persist 5-10 years post-fire.