People recovering from the California wildfires are now scrambling to get ready for rain and potential mudslides

  • Those impacted by the California fires may face a new danger: flooding, mudslides and debris flows.
  • While expected rains could help prevent further fires – and will provide much-needed relief for the poor air quality in Northern California – it could also mean flash floods and mudslides.
  • The rain may also complicate matters for law enforcement teams searching for remains of those who may have died in the Camp Fire in Butte County. There are still nearly 870 people reported missing, as of Tuesday evening.
  • Those affected by the Woolsey Fire in Southern California are also preparing for predicted rain at sandbag distribution centres throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Those impacted by the California fires may face a new danger: mudslides and/or debris flows. Areas hit by the Camp Fire in Butte County and the Woolsey Fire north of Los Angeles are expecting rainfall starting on Wednesday.

While that rain and could help prevent further fires – and will provide much-needed relief for the poor air quality in Northern California – it could also mean flash floods and/or mudslides.

The Camp Fire

The Camp Fire, which has become the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, has burned more than 151,000 acres, destroyed 17,148 structures, and left 81 dead. As of Tuesday, it was 70% contained.

Now Butte County, where the fire has all but decimated the city of Paradise, is preparing for two storm systems that are predicted to hit later this week.

“Flash floods and debris flows will be a particular threat in the wildfire burn areas mentioned above,” the National Weather Service of Sacramento reported, referring to burn areas from the Camp Fire, the Carr, Delta and Hirz wildfires in Shasta County and the Mendocino Complex Fire in Lake County. “Heavy rainfall at times is possible over the burn areas.”

“Rainfall that would normally be absorbed will run off extremely quickly after a wildfire, as burned soil can be as water-repellent as pavement,” according to the National Weather Service.

“The Camp Fire will likely see ash flows,” according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen, “and it’s possible the rain could fall hard enough to create more dangerous debris flows.”

The National Weather Service warned residents and emergency responders to be on the alert, as it could “quickly become a dangerous situation.”

The rain may also complicate matters for law enforcement teams searching for remains of those who may have died in the fire. There are still nearly 870 people reported missing, as of Tuesday evening.

“What we’re looking at here is potentially remains, or cremains – it’s kind of a cremated remains state,” Brian Ferreira, a rescue squad officer, told CNN.

“It’s going to consolidate the material and make it more dense,” Ferreira said of the rain. “And it’s going to present much more like soil. So anything we find or hope to find that’s still there, it’s going to make a difficult task … that much more difficult.”

Impact on the Woolsey Fire

For those in Southern California impacted by the Woolsey Fire, rain is also expected. However, “outside of any convection, peak rain rates should be well below critical thresholds for debris flows in and around burn areas,” according to the National Weather Service. The Woolsey Fire, which is nearly contained, destroyed 1,500 structures and killed three.

“Residents near burn areas should remain vigilant but at this time the probability for any significant debris flows is very small,” the National Weather Service said on Tuesday.

Emergency officials were preparing residents for possible flooding. The Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted out resources for residents – including readiness plans, and sandbag distribution site locations across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Deadly mudslides hit Southern California in January of this year, following the Thomas fire, which raged through Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties in December 2017.

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