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When Disaster Strikes Twice: Flood after Fire

January 2022

Floods are the most common and costly natural hazard in the nation. And after a wildfire, the charred soil and burnt vegetation can lead to a bigger risk of flooding and mudflow for up to five years or more. Whether caused by heavy rain, thunderstorms, or tropical storms, the results of flooding can be devastating. While some floods develop over time, flash floods (particularly common after wildfires) can occur within minutes after the onset of a rainstorm. Even areas that are not traditionally flood-prone are at risk, due to changes to the landscape caused by fire. Residents and businesses in areas recently affected by wildfires need to protect their physical and personal property with flood insurance now—before a weather event occurs and it’s too late.

The risk of flooding after fires increases due to vegetation loss and soil exposure. Flood damage after fire is often more severe and can lead to dangerous mudflows. A mudflow occurs when rainwater moves across barren ground, picking up soil and sediment and carrying it in a stream of floodwaters. You can watch and share our 15-second and/or 30-second videos for more on mudflows. When sharing social media resources, don’t forget to use our hashtags, #NFIP, #FloodInsurance, and #FloodAfterFire.

But with flood insurance, residents and business owners can be ready for nature’s next test. It typically takes 30 days for a new National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance policy to go into effect, so the time to buy flood insurance is now. No structure is completely safe from flooding. When just one inch of water in a home can cost more than $25,000 in damage, flood insurance can be the difference between recovery and financial devastation.

There’s just no rest for the West. But at least residents can rest assured that they have flood insurance. We encourage people to protect the life they’ve built.

Learn more about flood after fire risk and find digital resources to share with your community in the NFIP Resource Library by visiting FloodSmart.gov/wildfires.

For general inquiries about the National Flood Insurance Program, contact the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) center by website for additional information. For more up-to-date information, you can also sign up to receive email updates and follow us on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: The reader recognizes that the federal government provides links and informational data on various disaster preparedness resources and events and does not endorse any non-federal events, entities, organizations, services, or products. Please let us know about other events and services for individual and community preparedness that could be included in future newsletters by contacting FEMA-prepare@fema.dhs.gov

This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.