It takes only ten minutes of heavy rain to cause flash flooding and debris flows in burned areas and the lands downstream or downhill of wildfires. Don’t assume you are safe — rushing water and debris, including trees and rocks, can move fast and destroy culverts, bridges, roads, and buildings. Flash flooding can affect sites miles below a burned area and even areas that normally don’t flood.

Central Washington BAER Publications:

Preparing for Rain Storms

Potential Flood Hazards

USGS Interactive Map of Debris Flow Hazard Assessment


Check our STORM WEATHER page for numerous links to customized interactive maps to monitor storm/rainfall conditions in your area.

Don’t let flash flooding catch you unprepared. A large landslide in northwest Washington in March 2014 resulted in multiple casualties. Landslide debris covered about 30 houses and nearly a mile of State Route 530.

If you live (or are visiting) downstream or downhill of a burned area, you should be prepared and be safe. Near the top of your list should be a disaster kit:

  • 72-hour kit with the “5 P’s” – papers, pills (medications), phone, pets, purse (money and I.D.) and important photos.
  • First aid kit and special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Food, water, maps, battery-powered radio and a flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Check out the ready.gov list for a disaster supplies kit.


The emergency doesn’t end when the smoke clears.
NOW is the time to prepare for post-fire flooding!

The 2017 Central Washington wildfires have altered the landscape in many areas, creating an increased risk of flooding and mudflows. Several factors – including loss of ground cover, steep slopes, and intense rainfall – will increase the risk of flooding within the burned areas and on lands downstream of the burned areas. Until the burned areas begin recovery in the spring, little can stop the waters and mud from coming down the canyons. Reducing the risks to life and property is now the focus of numerous local and state and federal agencies, but area residents should develop plans to protect themselves and their property from the risks of post-fire flooding.

Know what to expect in your area:

  • Stay up-to-date on flood risks in your community.
  • Monitor weather forecasts and be alert for flood watches and warnings.
  • Be aware of the possibility of flooding from rains upstream of your location.
  • Monitor local radio and TV broadcasts for public safety bulletins and flood information from the National Weather Service.
  • Scan NOAA Weather Radio for real-time weather conditions. These broadcasts require a scanner or special radio receiver.
  • Find out whether your community has a flood warning system and how alerts are broadcast.
  • Call your local county sheriff’s office or county emergency services – if a reverse 9-1-1 system is in place, register both your home phone and your cell phone for this service.
  • Monitor the National Weather Service river forecast center out of Spokane.

Reduce the risk of flood damage:

  • Clean your property’s culverts and storm drains of dirt and flood debris.
  • Dispose of refuse only at designated sites.
  • Check with a licensed electrical contractor or your local utility company to find out whether your furnace, water heater, or major appliances should be raised on blocks above the projected flood elevation.
  • Protect your property from flooding:  Protecting your property can require a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining the building to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the structure of your building or utility systems, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city.

Prepare a family disaster plan:

  • Keep insurance policies, legal documents, and other valuables in a safe place.
  • Purchase insurance that covers flooding. Update your coverage if needed.
  • Take photos of your belongings in case you need to file insurance claims.
  • Create a plan in case you need to evacuate the area. Make sure each member of your household understands the plan.

Assemble a disaster supplies kit:

  • 72-hour kit with the “5 P’s” – papers, pills (medications), phone, pets, purse (money and I.D.) and important photos.
  • First aid kit and special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
  • Food, water, maps, battery-powered radio and a flashlight with extra batteries.

Be prepared for a flash flood:

  • Evacuations may be necessary. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
  • Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains.
  • Do not drive or walk through flooded waters.
  • Stay away from downed powerlines and electrical wires.
  • Watch out for lost pets and displaced wildlife.

After a flood event:

  • Do not return to your property until it has been declared safe for re-entry.
  • Wash with soap and clean hot water if you come into contact with floodwaters.
  • Notify authorities of road damage, blocked culverts, or other public drainage infrastructure problems.
  • Check the Washington State Department of Health flood info online for more tips and safety guides.


Do’s and don’ts from USGS


DNR Wildfire Debris Flow Information

Washington State Conservation Commission

Washington DNR_fire on twitter
Northwest Coordination Center info


Portable Generator Safety
After Fire Toolkit