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Flood Risk Remains Uncertain After Canyon Creek Fire


The Canyon Creek Complex Fire in the Malheur National Forest near Canyon City, Oregon began on Aug. 12, 2015 and has consumed an estimated 37, 119 acres. The fire was caused by lightning.

The Canyon Creek Complex Fire in the Malheur National Forest near Canyon City, Oregon began on Aug. 12, 2015 and has consumed an estimated 37, 119 acres. The fire was caused by lightning.

U.S. Forest Service

Rehabilitation after the Canyon Creek wildfire near John Day is almost complete, but the U.S. Forest Service predicts the flood threat there is triple what it was before devastating wildfires last August

The fires burned 120 acres above dozens of homes that remain in the canyon. Without vegetation to hold back the soil, a quick snowmelt could carry debris down the hillsides and into the creek.

Engineer Douglas Ferguson is coordinating flood prevention work, including building berms and dikes along Canyon Creek.

Ferguson said there’s no way to know how much ash and debris might flow down as spring rains come.

“The wildcard is debris,” said Ferguson. “I can predict what’s going to happen hydrologically and be pretty confident about that. We just have to hope it doesn’t come off too fast.”

This year’s higher than normal snowpack means the flood risk is even greater.

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