Several communities in the burn scar of the Creek Fire are generally at risk of catastrophic debris flow, mudslide or rockfall during an intense rainstorm.

The storm that swept through the region Wednesday has not been labeled a threat because it’s dropping snow, not rain, where the fire burned last fall, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s going to take a little longer before we make the Creek Fire a threat area,” said Carlos Molina, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service Hanford office.

But authorities are prepared.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has published an interactive map that shows the risk-level of mudslides during winter storms for communities affected by the Creek Fire. Find the map and more information to prepare at

If the sheriff’s office has reason to believe a storm poses imminent danger, it will issue warnings to residents at risk using the Everbridge system that sends notifications to those who have signed up to receive text, email or phone call alerts, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said.

Snow covers the mountains with trees charred by the Creek Fire around Shaver Lake as an approaching storm is expected for the Sierra Tuesday afternoon, March 9, 2021 at Shaver Lake. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

It’s the same notification system used to issue evacuation notices during the Creek Fire that ignited near Big Creek and burned nearly 380,000 acres between September and November.

All homes in the entire burn area are at “high risk” and could be damaged or destroyed during a high-intensity storm, according to the map.

Homes and roads in areas marked as extreme risk are more prone to a catastrophic event during an intense rainstorm. That’s, in part, because without vegetation, soil in burned areas is more prone to erosion, as is the case on steep slopes following tree loss.

If you live in an extreme risk area, the Sheriff’s Office “may issue evacuation orders when an intense storm is forecast by the National Weather Service that could cause a damage and be life threatening,” the department says.

“Most of the precipitation has been in the Valley,” Molina said Wednesday. “What’s going on in the foothills between 2,500 and 3,000 feet is they’ve actually been getting snow.”

If temperatures increase and the storm dropped rain instead of snow, “that would be a concern for the area.” Weather forecasting predicts upcoming storms to remain cold at those higher elevations.

The threat level is analyzed and determined by a team of firefighters, geologists, sheriff’s deputies, public works employees and others based on forecasts from the National Weather Service and physical observation in the area, Botti said.

The sheriff’s office has the final say whether to evacuate based on threat of storm.

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A screenshot of a Fresno County Sheriff’s Department map that illustrates what communities in the Creek Fire burn scar are at “extreme risk” of mudslide, rockfall or debris flow.

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