Photo of the Maiden Creek Hill clean up on Aug. 30. Ministry of Transportation photo.

Mudslide risk in South Cariboo may last two years or more after wildfires

Reseeding doesn’t make a difference and takes years to have an effect, according to Ministry

There were yet more travel advisories this week near Clinton due to potential highway debris flow and the end of August, saw more mudslides in the general area.

In terms of preventing further mudslides, reseeding doesn’t make a difference and takes years to have an effect, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“We can build barriers but [we] have to know where to put them. Most work is around the elements at risk – life and property. After the Elephant Hill wildfire, we identified the elements at risk and what they were at risk from (debris flood, debris slide, clear water flow etc.).”

While in some cases it may make sense to put a berm or channel to direct water away from properties, it’s not done often because it is expensive and difficult to predict, according to the ministry.

“Additionally, the responsibility for putting barriers, berm channels and retaining walls in place is the responsibility of property owners.”

RELATED: Ranchers stood on their porch as mudslide surrounded them

Post-wildfire risks may last for two years or more, but may persist longer in severely burned areas.

“After two or three years, the regrowth of vegetation and reduced water repellency of the soil should lower the risk considerably.”

The ministry also offered several tips on how to deal with post-wildfire hazards as well as what to do during a storm or heavy runoff event.

How can you deal with post-wildfire hazards?

1 Be informed. Be ready.

2 Familiarize yourself with the landscape and its normal drainage channels. Know where your home or property is situated with respect to natural drainage channels. Find out if any floods or landslides have occurred in the area in recent years.

3 Contact local authorities to learn about any emergency response and evacuation plans for your area. Attend any meetings that are held to inform the public of local risks.

4 Develop your own emergency plans for your family, property and/or business. Post-wildfire hazard events can occur with little advance warning, so it’s important to be prepared.

5 If a wildfire occurs on Crown (provincially owned) land, a post-wildfire risk analysis may be conducted to determine if the safety of nearby residential areas may be affected. Contact your local government office or Emergency Management BC (EMBC) to see if a risk analysis has been done in your area.

RELATED: B.C. man recounts intense rescue of couple caught in mudslide

What should you do during an event?

1 Pay attention to weather forecasts that include thunderstorm or heavy rainfall warnings.

2 Check the current Environment Canada weather forecast at http://weather.gc.ca/canada_e.html

3 Avoid driving in an area where a wildfire has recently occurred. Potential dangers include washed-out bridges and culverts. Roads running below steep banks are susceptible to landslides. If it’s absolutely necessary to travel in the area, stay alert and watch the road ahead of you for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rocks or other indications of debris flows.

4 Never drive across a flooded road.

5 If your home is in an at-risk area and severe weather is occurring or in the forecast, stay alert. Listen for any unusual sounds (e.g. tree trucks cracking or boulders knocking together) and watch for changes to water flows in local stream channels. Consider sleeping on an upper floor of your home and don’t sleep in the basement.

6 Do not enter water channels or hike upstream to inspect water lines or buildings. Consider leaving the area temporarily if you are concerned (and if it is safe to do so).

7 On forested land where a wildfire has recently occurred, avoid camping on floodplains, beside small streams, on alluvial fans or at the base of burned slopes. Be aware that forest service roads or resource roads may wash out if a flood occurs and could cut off access to the area.


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