Mudslides, Flooding Cause Big Mess In Fire Burn Areas
GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES
LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– People living in the High Park Fire burn area are bracing for more rain and flash flooding as the current weather pattern is expected to continue through the weekend.
“One of the things that we commonly see is mudslides and a lot of debris coming down off the hillsides,” said Poudre Canyon Fire Protection spokesman Carl Solley.
Lefthand Canyon in Boulder County was closed at 6 p.m. Saturday because of mudslides and debris. Highway 34 was also closed in both directions just west of Loveland due to multiple mudslides in the area. There was no estimate on when it will reopen.
Highway 14 in Poudre Canyon was closed for several hours on Friday because mudslides covered the highway. Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation used snowplows to clear the road and then used front loaders to haul out the debris and mud from the canyon.
A large part of the Poudre Canyon community started filling sandbags on Saturday in hopes of keeping mudslides and heavy rains from causing any more damage to their property.
“Especially in the Falls Creek area, they’re being impacted by the mud that’s coming down. And so what we’re doing is putting sandbags together, taking them up and putting them behind the house to keep the mud and debris out of the homes,” said Solley.
The flash flood warnings have been issued for the High Park Fire burn area. The fire burned more than 87,000 acres after it was started by lightning June 9. Firefighters have the fire 100 percent contained.
The Hewlett Gulch Fire burn area is also included in the warning area. It is located north of the High Park Fire burn area. The Hewlett Gulch Fire burned more than 7,500 acres.
Charred hillsides are vulnerable to erosion and flooding during downpours because they have less vegetation to soak up rain, and burned soils can repel water.
Some of the worst mudslides happened along a private road where the High Park Fire burned last month.
“Because there’s nothing to hold it, all the trees have burned,” said resident Sandy Lemont. “It’s debris from the burned out homes above, the five that burned, mostly ashes.”
Neighbors helped place sandbags around LeMont’s home on Saturday. The High Park Fire came dangerously close to her home. She and her husband had to be evacuated four times.
“The garage was about three feet deep with mud and sand and rocks and everything imaginable. With the fire burn, it was surrounded. Our son came and pulled it out,” said LeMont.
“It took a while, it was all the way up to the hood of the car,” said LeMont’s son.
“Just trying to save what we have at this point,” said LeMont.
Flash flood warnings may continue until Monday. Highway 14 may experience more mudslides and falling rocks which may impact residents and impede travel along the highway.
Highway 14 residents from Mishawaka on the west to Gateway Park on the east remain under a pre-evacuation alert. Residents should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if conditions worsen. There is no evacuation site open at this time but will be opened if an evacuation is necessary. A total of 227 emergency notifications were sent.