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Assessment of the burn area in the Tunnel Fire scar is underway

A Burned Area Emergency Response, or BAER team, is currently assessing the next threats from the Tunnel Fire in northern Arizona.

BAER teams are sent into areas ravaged by fires once they’ve been controlled to make fast evaluations for any flooding or debris.

Brendan Waterman is the BAER team leader for the Tunnel Fire. He said for now a team of watershed experts was preparing a burn severity map for immediate damage.

"We’ve been working across the entire burn scar. We’ve been on the west side of 89, above the communities there where I know there is a big concern from flash flooding, debris flow," he said.

And then a team of biologists, invasive species specialists, engineers and others will study the fire’s damage for long-term impacts.

Waterman said the burn scar from the Tunnel Fire, which scorched more than 30 square miles, wasn’t very large, and he expects to have a report for Coconino National Forest officials by next week.

Though he cautioned it’s too early to tell, Waterman said the slopes that burned in the Tunnel Fire are far lower than the slopes of the 2019 Museum Fire that led to severe flooding two years later.

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Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.