Officials warn of flash flooding, debris slides in Bolt Creek Fire burn areas

People living along U.S. Highway 2 are breathing a sigh of relief as wildfire season closes. 

However, it turns out they are not out of the woods yet: the Bolt Creek Fire could continue to threaten their community for years to come.                                     

The fire burned around 15,000 acres. What was left is virtually water-repellant, and our rainy season could mean flash floods remain a threat to the Sky Valley.  

"This is our new reality, this is what we will be coping with moving forward," said King County Executive Dow Constantine during a Wednesday media briefing. 

County and emergency officials and weather forecasters say the damage left by the Bolt Creek Fire means rain will struggle to seep into the soil. Instead, water likely will rush over blackened earth and downhill, along with a torrent of rocks, mud and debris.

"Homes and infrastructure are at risk of being demolished by flash flooding," said Reid Walcott from the National Weather Service.

About 300 live among Index, Baring and Skykomish. Those families are being urged to stock up on extra food and supplies before more rain falls.

Officials warn the burn scar may take up to five years before vegetation lowers the risk for flash flood. 

Plus, the Pacific Northwest’s rainy season may pack a punch that could be impossible for models to accurately predict. 

"What happens when we have six inches of rain that falls over 24 hours?" said Walcott. "There’s not a lot of modeling out there that we can look to."

Communities in burn areas at a 'high risk' for slides, flooding with recent rainfall

The relief many have felt from seeing snow and rain is short-lived for those living in the shadow of the steep slopes and mountainsides burned by the late-season fires.