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Drought reduces runoff from watersheds burned by wildfires

 •  by Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern
A cabin in Trout Meadow is ringed by the aftermath of flames in the Sequoia Complex Fire that started in August 2020 and wasn't put out until Jan. 2021. Water managers are concerned about muddy, debris-laden runoff from wildfire burn sites. PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. Forest service courtesy

Drought isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s turning out to be a dry blessing in disguise this year as the lack of snow means less runoff in areas burned by the massive Creek and Sequoia Complex wildfires in 2020.

The Creek Fire, which started on September 4, 2020, burned nearly 380,000 acres of the San Joaquin River watershed before it was contained on December 24, 2020. The Sequoia Complex Fire, which started on August 19, 2020, burned over 170,000 acres including swaths of the Tule River and Kern River watersheds. It wasn’t declared out until January 6, 2021 and just recently, a giant sequoia was found still smoldering in the heart of the burn area.

Sooty, muddy, debris-laden runoff from those charred hillsides could have gunked up water delivery systems, even threatening drinking supplies.

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Jesse Vad, SJV Water reporting intern

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