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Flagstaff could see $2.8 billion damages from a catastrophic fire on the San Francisco Peaks

Experts say a catastrophic wildfire through the San Francisco Peaks could result in nearly $3 billion in damages. 

An engineering modeling company  devised scenarios on the impacts of fire to Flagstaff and the surrounding areas. And NAU experts used that modeling to devise economic impacts from future fires. 

The modeling area comprises more than 21,000 acres of the Peaks and was split  into four burn scenarios. Then they applied rain impacts on those hypothetical scenarios. 

"Certainly the cycle of wildfire and flooding has been a cycle we’ve experienced now for about 15 years. So I don’t think it’s a surprise," said Coconino County Flood Control District Director Lucinda Andreani.

"Through downtown Flagstaff, we could be seeing on the order 3-6 times the flow rates of a 100 year event," said Joe Loverich of JE Fuller Hydrology. 

Northern Arizona University's Economic Policy Institute estimated the costs to Flagstaff of post-wildfire flooding on the Rio de Flag watershed which encompasses much of the mountain slopes overlooking Flagstaff to range from $535 million to $2.8 billion.

“This is a very conservative estimate,” said Institute Director Nancy Baca. “And it’s really hard to capture all the costs associated with the fire and the flooding. But we did our best to hit on the biggest categories."

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