As the rainy season approaches, we want to remind area residents to begin preparing now for post-fire flooding in the Decker Fire burn area. Areas below the Decker Fire burn scar face risks to safety, homes, roads, trails, and water supplies from post-fire flash flooding. While projects are underway to assist landowners and others with recovery, there is significant work you can do now - before the rainy season is upon us.
Education and preparedness are the first line of defense.
Hillsides stripped by the fire of trees and other vegetation are unable to absorb rainfall which creates what we call a “bulking factor”. The bulking factor takes into consideration increased runoff due to reduced vegetation and the collection of debris (burned trees, soils, etc.). The bulking factor in post-fire conditions results in dangerous flash flooding even in drainages or draws that have historically been dry. Burned and unstable soils break apart easily even with modest amounts of precipitation and burned trees and debris can be swept down during a flash flood and cause severe injuries and threats to life and property. Educating and preparing yourself will go a long way to creating a safe and secure environment on your property.
By taking a few basic but vital steps you can prepare yourself for potential post-fire flooding. We ask you all to be safe, be prepared, and be informed. For more information, links, resources, and contacts to help you prepare for post-fire flooding please visit the Chaffee Recovers website.
REGISTER NOW FOR CHAFFEE COUNTY EMERGENCY ALERTS
PURCHASE FLOOD INSURANCE
REVIEW PREPAREDNESS & RECOVERY RESOURCES
Canon City High School students collected data from fire-impacted creek drainages last summer and fall to study how waterways are affected by fire. They continue their study in 2019, but their first set of data are available here:
The Canon City Daily Record featured a story covering some of the recovery work in the Big Cottonwood drainage:
During July and August 2019, volunteer crews removed debris and trash from the Big Cottonwood drainage. The crews are from the Work Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program - part of the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments program in Canon City. Thank you so much to our committed volunteers who are working hard to improve conditions in the fire-impacted drainages. You can learn more about the program here:
With the help of a forester and sawyer from the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (arkcollaborative.org) and crew leader from River Science (river.science), crews removed trees in or falling in to the creek from heavily eroded banks, preventing these from becoming hazards to life and property downstream in another flood event. They also deconstructed and hauled out three large debris deposits containing woody materials and trash from the July 24, 2018 flood and subsequent floods. Removing these jams and deposits allows water and additional debris to move more freely down the channel during a flood, encouraging flows to pass through rather than collecting and diverting water toward people, homes and roads. The crews removed a large amount of trash including small pieces of microtrash as well and large pieces of metal and equipment deposited during last July's high flow flood. Clearing out trash prevents these materials from continuing to contaminate the natural system, and supports natural regeneration of plant and animal communities, including the fishery.
We are working on bringing crews back again in the spring, in addition to other volunteer groups, to complete needed work we identified with the help of landowners and field experts who have been working with the recovery team since this spring. Look for Chelsey, Luke and Kate in the field, or Contact Us with questions.
During the week of July 15, with direction from an Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC) forester, ARWC sawyers and volunteers, removed a large cottonwood tree that was deposited during the 2018 flood event. The tree, with its nearly 70 foot length and 7 foot diameter at its widest, had a 12 foot agricultural gate wedged in its crook while flows carried it down the creek channel during the July 2018 flood event. The large tree posed a risk to downstream neighbors if it moved again during another flood event. The recovery coalition team worked with landowners to secure funds to remove it.
With our coalition team member Chelsey Nutter now at the helm as ARWC Executive Director, the organization has become the formal parent entity housing our local coalition. The Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC) is a 501(c)3, formed by the Watershed Health Sub-Committee of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable (ABRT).
The coalition team continues work on securing funds to meet needs identified during the spring and summer.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection (NRCS EWP) recovery project in the Big Cottonwood area in Coaldale wrapped up on July 16, 2019. The project was sponsored by Fremont County with matching funds from the CO Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management. Otak Engineering designed and implemented the project, with Frontier Environmental as the contractor, with support from the coalition's hydrology and hydraulics assessment of flooding in the drainage. The grant program helps communities address watershed impairments like floods that pose immediate threats to life and safety. The project focused on the upper private reach of Big Cottonwood, near the confluence of Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood and Bitter Creeks. Work included measures like grading, channel realignment, debris removal, revegetation and structures to divert water away from homes, reduce damage caused by flood-born debris, and encourage stabilization of soils and deposition of sediment in safer areas, increasing the overall resiliency of the channel to accommodate increased flows during the post-fire recovery period.
We would like to share some resources and helpful contacts as spring runoff is upon us and the monsoon season is approaching.
EWP is underway in Big Cottonwood. The work in this part of the drainage will help improve the resiliency of the drainage to improve its ability to contain and slow flows. It is not a fix-all, however, and we should all remain vigilant for ourselves and our neighbors. Please note that if you are driving along CR 40, please be aware of large equipment and trucks. Please check back here for updates.
Please note most flood insurance policies take 30 days to go into effect. Learn more at these sites, or call your insurance agent.
Matt Buddie, FEMA Region VIII Floodplain Management/Community Resilience
303 235 4730
Colorado Flood Threat Bulletin
A flood threat information resource from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Providing an overview of daily flood risk in Colorado from May through September.
National Weather Service Information & Alerts
It is recommended we layer multiple alert services to be sure we don't miss an alert. In areas such as ours with limited cell coverage, a weather radio is essential.
Weather Alert Options
Greg Heavener, Warning Coordination Meterologist
719 948 9429
Western Fremont County Fire Protection District
The local FPD would like to remind us all to be vigilant with increased chance of flooding during the runoff and rainy season. Please be sure his office has your updated contact information and changes in residents.
John Walker, Chief
719 942 3333
719 942 3687
13607 CR 45 Coaldale
Fremont County Emergency Management
Alert Fremont/911 Emergency Notifications
Be sure your cell phones are registered for emergency alerts. Even if you've registered before, check to make sure your information is accurate and up to date.
Mykel Kroll, Emergency Manager
719 276 7422
Fremont County Building Department Flood Damage Prevention Permits
To protect the floodplain and neighbor safety, the County has regulations for working in floodplains. To learn more, please visit the Building Department website where you can find the codes, applications and other permitting information:
Michael Cox, Building Official
719 276 7460
Local Recovery Effort Website Resources
We are adding more resources for education, safety and recovery techniques regularly to our website. Please check in often for new materials and as always, let us know how we can help. Visit our page here.
We are working to plan volunteer workdays and additional projects at key locations in all fire-impacted drainages this spring and early summer as well as fall planting and seeding. We've met one on one with many of you on your properties and plans are underway. We've been presenting our community's effort to organizations around the state and have more support coming on board. Recovery and restoration will be a long term process and we will all do what we can one step at a time. Thank you for staying engaged!
FLOOD PREPAREDNESS MESSAGE FROM LOCAL FIRE CHIEF
Please see this important reminder from John Walker, Western Fremont County Fire Protection District Chief. A significant runoff is already underway. As we all know, being prepared for the upcoming flood season is critical. Please share this information with your neighbors, especially those who may not receive electronic communications:
Your fire department will continue the process of using telephones and cell phones to warn residents of witnessed flood events. If you have any new contact number or new household members, please update them by calling 719-942-3687.
Only emergency vehicles will be allowed into threatened areas since we have experienced traffic congestion during previous events that has blocked access for responders whose mission is the protection of lives.
A long and continuous siren means that homes are facing imminent danger and everyone within earshot should evaluate their situation immediately and be prepared to move to higher ground.
Remember that evacuation may be necessary at night and in a pouring rain. If your home is in a low-lying area, have appropriate clothes and a flashlight next to your emergency exit door.
Finally, it's not over until it's over, and flood events in the past have had several surges of high water that can trap the unwary.
Please contact the Western Fremont County Fire Protection District at 719-942-3687 with questions.