Severe Burn on West Fork Fire, Photo by Heather DuttonPreparing for Flood Waters after the West Fork & Papoose Fires

The West Fork, Windy Pass, and Papoose fires (known as the West Fork Complex) burned more than 112,000 acres … 88,000 of those acres were on the Rio Grande National Forest.  The loss of vegetation and burn severity across 75% of the burn scar makes rain soak into the ground more slowly and the soil becomes more erodible. This increases the risk of flash floods and debris flows during high intensity rain storms.  Impacts may persist for an extended period of time.    
Visitors should fully understand the safety risks of falling trees and flash floods before entering these areas.

  YouTube: Flash Flooding in Burn Area   •   Post Fire Danger

To receive emergency notifications, visit or and click on Code Red


Know What to Expect

• Flooding is possible if it has been raining upstream.
• Know the area, and know the flood risk based on proximity to streams and waterways.
• Burned trees and rocks may wash down and pile up bridges, culverts, and other river obstructions.
• Sediment and ash may wash off the burned area into the streams, changing the color of the water to brown or black.
• Bridges and culverts may be washed out

Be Ready

• Sign up to receive emergency notifications (CodeRED through your County).
• Be aware of rising water in ditches, streams, creeks, and rivers.
• Do not hike in narrow canyons when flash flooding is possible
• Listen for bulletins on local radio stations.

When a Flash Flood Begins

• Move up, not out!
• Move to higher ground away from all waterways.
• Do not drive or walk through flooded areas.
• If you see downed power lines or electrical wires, stay away and contact the local utility company.


Burned tree roots can cause trees to be very unstable. Even a light wind can cause these trees to fall or lose sections. Visitors should be watchful and avoid unstable trees.
• Avoid burned forest areas on windy days.
• Do not camp or park near burned areas.
• When driving through burned areas, carry a saw or an ax in case trees fall and block the way out.

Additional Resources