A flash flood watch is in effect Thursday for the Chetco Bar Fire area, 16 miles west of Selma, Oregon.
Damaged soil, loosened vegetation and heavy rain in the forecast has increased the risk of landslides in recently burned areas — a threat that can last months and even years after a fire has burned out.
“With this wet weather coming through and it being a recently burned area, folks need to be hyper-aware of the landslide risk of the area and, if at all possible, just avoid traveling through the area,” said Ali Ryan Hansen, the communications director with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
The Chetco Bar Fire burned 191,121 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The flash flood watch is in effect for the entire area where the fire spread this summer.
Without vegetation in the area, precipitation can reach the surface of the ground more quickly. Fires also eat at the roots of that vegetation, which can make the area susceptible to mud and landslides.
“Heavy precipitation is a common landslide trigger,” Hansen said.
Places where land has slid in the past are at a higher risk for a flash flood.
People who live or work in the area are advised to listen for unusual sounds that could indicate moving debris, and to watch streams or creeks for unusually muddy water, which could signal a slide.
Watch: How we pay to fight wildfires.