A preliminary hazard assessment was developed for debris-flow hazards in the 465 square-kilometer (115,000 acres) area burned by the 2013 Beaver Creek fire near Hailey in central Idaho. The burn area covers all or part of six watersheds and selected basins draining to the Big Wood River and is at risk of substantial post-fire erosion, such as that caused by debris flows. Empirical models derived from statistical evaluation of data collected from recently burned basins throughout the Intermountain Region in Western United States were used to estimate the probability of debris-flow occurrence, potential volume of debris flows, and the combined debris-flow hazard ranking along the drainage network within the burn area and to estimate the same for analyzed drainage basins within the burn area. Input data for the empirical models included topographic parameters, soil characteristics, burn severity, and rainfall totals and intensities for a (1) 2-year-recurrence, 1-hour-duration rainfall, referred to as a 2-year storm (13 mm); (2) 10-year-recurrence, 1-hour-duration rainfall, referred to as a 10-year storm (19 mm); and (3) 25-year-recurrence, 1-hour-duration rainfall, referred to as a 25-year storm (22 mm). Estimated debris-flow probabilities for drainage basins upstream of 130 selected basin outlets ranged from less than 1 to 78 percent with the probabilities increasing with each increase in storm magnitude. Probabilities were high in three of the six watersheds. For the 25-year storm, probabilities were greater than 60 percent for 11 basin outlets and ranged from 50 to 60 percent for an additional 12 basin outlets. Probability estimates for stream segments within the drainage network can vary within a basin. For the 25-year storm, probabilities for stream segments within 33 basins were higher than the basin outlet, emphasizing the importance of evaluating the drainage network as well as basin outlets. Estimated debris-flow volumes for the three modeled storms range from a minimal debris flow volume of 10 cubic meters [m3]) to greater than 100,000 m3. Estimated debris-flow volumes increased with basin size and distance downstream. For the 25-year storm, estimated debris-flow volumes were greater than 100,000 m3 for 4 basins and between 50,000 and 100,000 m3 for 10 basins. The debris-flow hazard rankings did not result in the highest hazard ranking of 5, indicating that none of the basins had a high probability of debris-flow occurrence and a high debris-flow volume estimate. The hazard ranking was 4 for one basin using the 10-year-recurrence storm model and for three basins using the 25-year-recurrence storm model. The maps presented herein may be used to prioritize areas where post-wildfire remediation efforts should take place within the 2- to 3-year period of increased erosional vulnerability.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Post-fire debris-flow hazard assessment of the area burned by the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire near Hailey, central Idaho
U.S. Geological Survey
Idaho Water Science Center
Report: iv, 12 p.; Table: XLSX file; 9 plates: 24 inches x 31 inches