Lincoln National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
3463 Las Palomas
Alamogordo, NM 88310
Wildfires Leave Behind a lot of Ash—Ash Happens!
Wildfires are a natural part of many ecosystems, but wildfires can impact air quality, they can also affect the quantity and quality of water.
During active burning, ash and contaminants associated with ash settle on streams, lakes and water reservoirs. Vegetation that holds soil in place and retains water is burned away. In the aftermath of a large wildfire, rainstorms flush vast quantities of ash, sediment, nutrients and contaminants into streams, rivers, and downstream reservoirs. The absence of vegetation in the watershed can create increased water, ash, sediment, and debris flow conditions.
After the first few major rainstorm events following a wildfire, downstream residents and recreational visitors may see the “ash” laden sediment flow “flush” since water runoff from burned areas contains ash and is conducive to increased erosion of the soil—also producing debris or sediment flows.
Recreating visitors and downstream residents are reminded to take notice of local weather alerts and warnings during the next few years as these recent burn areas recover to their pre-fire watershed conditions.
BAER SAFETY MESSAGE: Everyone near and downstream from the burned areas should remain alert and stay updated on weather conditions that may result in heavy rains and increased water runoff. Flash flooding may occur quickly during heavy rain events-be prepared to act. Current weather and emergency notifications can be found at the National Weather Service website: www.weather.gov/abq/.
Ash and Debris Flow—US Geological Survey Photo