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Rain Ready

Be Ready for the 2019-2020 Season

Federal, state, local agencies, and community groups continue to take action to protect our watershed, and prevent flooding and storm water pollution after the 0ctober 2017 fires by implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs). BMPs are used to keep pollutants from entering storm drains and our natural waterbodies like creeks and rivers. There are many types of BMP materials and methods. BMPs must be properly installed and maintained in order to function, and may need to be replaced prior to each rainy season, particularly after a wildfire has damaged vegetation and soils. Depending on your property, you may need technical advice from qualified personnel to customize the approach and installations at your property.

Property Owner and Contractor Responsibilities

Whether you are in the process of rebuilding, selling your lot, or if your lot remains vacant, as a property owner, it is your responsibility to control storm runoff. Property owners and contractors on rebuild sites must prevent pollutants, including sediment, from entering storm drains, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.

Inspections and Enforcement

Inspections of fire-affected properties are underway to assess whether they are ready for the rainy season, with an emphasis on protecting the environment and ensuring contractor compliance during rebuilding. Inspections will occur throughout the rainy season to ensure adequate wet weather protections are in place and functioning well. The City of Santa Rosa and the County of Sonoma’s goal is to work with property owners and contractors to come into compliance through progressive verbal communication and written noticing, prior to potential formal enforcement.

Information and Resources

Since the risks of erosion, sedimentation, flooding, or similar secondary post-fire hazards are higher than they were before the fires, the County of Sonoma and City of Santa Rosa prepared summary brochures regarding responsibilities and resources for property owners and contractors, with customized information for parcels that are vacant versus under construction. Review those resources below.

Erosion Control for Vacant Parcels

For residents in the City of Santa Rosa:

For residents in the County of Sonoma:

Erosion Control for Rebuilding Sites

For residents in the City of Santa Rosa:

For residents in the County of Sonoma:


If your property is in the City of Santa Rosa, call the Resilient City Permit Center at 707-543-4649 or email

In unincorporated Sonoma County, call the Storm Water and Creeks team at 707-565-6186.

For other locations or with general questions, contact the joint recovery team via email at or via phone 707-565-1222.

Increased Risk of Flooding

A multi-agency analysis of the fire damage in 2018  found that properties located within fire burn areas may still be at risk for flash floods, mudflows and debris flows.

To familiarize yourself with the potential hazards associated with the burned areas please view the Post-Fire Hazard Assessment Map.

Residents who live in areas identified as at medium and high-risk of flash flooding, debris and mud flows  were mailed information that can be seen here.

More than 30 roadside signs have been installed in areas that have been identified as high risk. Click here to see what the signs look like.

Be Prepared

The National Weather Service expects debris flows to become more likely during periods of intense rainfall. Be prepared by:

  • Identifying vulnerable areas on your property.
  • Using erosion control techniques, such as installing wattles and rock bags, and clearing fire-related debris from creeks and drainages to reduce flooding.
  • Have an evacuation and emergency plan ready.
  • Keep your cell phone turned on at all times to receive emergency alerts.

Stay Informed

  • Sonoma Water has installed rainfall and stream gauges in watersheds in burned areas and is working to install radar equipment to improve early warning forecasts for residents in high-risk areas. Use this link for real-time data:

National Weather Service Warning System:

  • The National Weather Service issues weather advisories and watches when the weather forecast indicates there is a potential for hazardous conditions. Watches and advisories are shared online at, and on the National Weather Service social media Facebook and Twitter feeds.
  • Warning: The National Weather Service will issue a Warning if hazardous conditions are imminent or occurring within the burn areas.
  • The National Weather Service sends Warnings over the Wireless Emergency Alerts system that will send a message to all cell phones in the burn areas and will also send out alerts through the Emergency Alert System that broadcasts on radios and televisions.

Sign up for Sonoma County Emergency Alerts:

  • Sign up to receive emergency notifications at SoCoAlert will be used to send an emergency notification if there is an imminent threat to life or property.

Weather Emergency Radios

  • In areas where there is limited cell service, or if a power outage occurs, Emergency Warnings from the National Weather Service will be announced on the Weather Emergency Radios, which rely on batteries.

Emergency public hotlines - Flood, sanitation, streams maintenance

Flood Forecast Hotline: (707) 526-4768

The Flood Forecast is a recording that provides updates on local river conditions. The recordings are updated by the Sonoma County Water Agency as conditions change.

Stream Maintenance: (707) 521-1845

Report any stream related issues, such as debris or stream channel changes, to prevent localized flooding.

Sewage Emergency Hotline: (707) 523-1070

The Sewage Emergency Hotline is operated on a 24-hour basis at Sonoma Water's Operations Center. Call this hotline to report any sewage spills, overflows or backed-up sewer lines.

Additional Erosion Control and Flood Prevention Resources

Publications and services relating to erosion control can be found on the Sonoma Resource Conservation District Website at: Resource Conservation District

Where to find BMP materials:

  • Wattles and other BMP materials, such as straw,  are available for purchase at various agriculture, garden supply and  hardware stores.
  • Install straw wattles to prevent debris, ash and erosion from flowing into waterways. Straw wattles can be picked-up from local hardware stores. For more information, go to
  • If you see something (flooding, mud and debris flows), say something – call 911
  • Monitor your surroundings, and have an emergency plan in place.
  • Stay informed: Listen to local radio stations, and sign up for Nixle and SoCo Alerts. Make sure that the emergency alerts on your cell phone are activated (on smart phones, go to “Notifications” and make sure the Emergency Alerts notification is turned on).

After a fire, windborne material such as ash and soil from paddocks with inadequate ground cover may be blown into streams. Once in the water, organic materials provide ideal food for bacteria and algae. These organisms grow rapidly using up all free oxygen in the water (it becomes anaerobic) and putrefaction results. Symptoms are dark water, a bad smell and black scum around the water’s edge. Horses and other livestock find such water unpalatable. Thick scum around the water’s edge may also prevent animals accessing the water. It is believed the water is not poisonous to livestock, but it may be harmful to young or weak stock.

  • Fire ash contains microscopic particles (dust, dirt, soot) that can be deposited on indoor and outdoor surfaces and can also be inhaled if the ash becomes airborne. Unless tested, the ash is not classified as a hazardous waste, however it may contain traces of hazardous chemicals such as metals (lead, cadmium, nickel, and arsenic), asbestos (from older homes or other buildings), perfluorochemicals (from degradation of non-stick cookware), flame retardants, and caustic materials. For these reasons, it is advisable to be cautious and avoid any unnecessary exposure to the ash.
  • Fire ash may be irritating to the skin, nose, and throat, and may cause coughing and/or nose bleeds. Fine particles can be inhaled deeply into lungs and may aggravate asthma and make it difficult to breathe. If the ash contains asbestos, nickel, arsenic or cadmium, then exposure is a particular concern because these substances can cause cancer. Because the substances in the ash vary, it is always best to be cautious.
  • Given the scale of the burned area, it will be impossible to prevent the migration of ash and debris into creeks, and the concentrations of hazardous materials is unknown.
  • Multiple agencies are working together to prevent fire-related debris, pollutants and sediment from being carried into our storm drains, creeks and rivers.

The goal is to prevent ash and debris from entering the waterways. You can help by taking simple steps by placing straw wattles, hay bales, and mulch around burned areas to reduce the chances of ashes and other material from washing into streams. To learn more, go to

Increased rain runoff in burned areas can cause mud and debris flows. Multiple, federal, state, and local agencies are taking action to protect our watershed and prevent flooding, this includes:

  • Watch for unusual movement of water, land, and debris during or after rain. Have an emergency plan and leave your property if it becomes unsafe during or after a storm.
  • Minimize soil and slope disturbances. Ash, leaf drops, downed trees, and remnant burned vegetation all play a role in protecting the soil and slopes following wildfire.
  • Work with your neighbors. Runoff, erosion, and debris flows have no boundaries.
  • Private roads require more maintenance in the first few winters following wildfire. Clear debris upstream of culverts as possible, and check culverts for clogging after every storm. If culverts or other road drainage structures do not appear to be functioning properly, consult a professional.

For additional information, please visit:

  • The goal this winter is to prevent ash and debris from entering the waterways. You can help by taking simple steps by placing straw wattles, hay bales, and mulch around burned areas to reduce the chances of ashes and other material from washing into streams.
  • Remember that everything that is outside drains to creeks and streams. Don’t use leaf blowers or hoses to remove ash and debris.
  • Consider consulting a professional before implementing permanent erosion measures.
  • Wear protective gear whenever you work in burned areas.
  • For more information, go to
  • Multiple agencies are working together to assess and reduce the risk of flooding and to prevent fire-related debris, pollutants and sediment from being spread into our storm drains, creeks and rivers.
  • In urban areas, the City of Santa Rosa and the County of Sonoma are:
    • Increasing street-sweeping activities
    • Cleaning and checking storm drains
    • Installing wattles and sandbags to prevent debris from entering storm drains
    • Hydro-seeding to stabilize soil
  • For more information, go to
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