California business owners are familiar with the devastating effects of wildfires. In 2018 alone, wildfires have destroyed over 1.2 million acres in the state and demolished around 8,500 buildings. Hundreds of people have lost their businesses and livelihoods due to the blazes that continue to ravage the state.

Unfortunately, these fires are bringing businesses another natural disaster: fire-floods. A fire-flood occurs when rain lands on burned soil and cannot absorb into the ground. The mixture of rain and loose soil then rolls down hillsides in a form similar to a mudslide or flash flood.

Earlier this year, a fire-flood destroyed 400 homes and killed over 20 residents in the community of Montecito, California. A fire-flood can travel at speeds greater than 20 miles per hour and reach over 20 feet high as it picks up boulders, trees and underground pipes in its path. Because a fire-flood travels so fast, people are not always aware that one is approaching until it crashes through their windows. For that reason, it is important to take the following precautions to protect your business from a fire-flood:

1. Avoid building along hillsides

While you might not have a lot of say in the matter, the greatest defense against a fire-flood is to avoid purchasing a business on a hillside. If you are determined to be located in a certain area, consult with local city officials to learn where floods have traditionally flowed in the past.

2. Plant vegetation

Strong roots from plants can help protect your business from a fire-flood. It is important to water this area regularly to keep soil from coming loose and running down the hillside when it rains. Avoid planting large trees in this area, in case a fire-flood rips them loose and causes additional damage to your business.

3. Consider restraining and deflection walls

Retaining walls can be one of your first defenses against a fire-flood to halt the flow of water and mud. If the fire-flood overpowers the restraining wall, a deflection walls can help direct the flow of mud and water away from your business. However, it is extremely important to determine where you direct the flood to go. If you divert the flood to a neighbor’s property and it causes damages or injures someone, you can be held liable for damages.

When fire-flood destroys a business, it impacts more than the physical building. Business owners can suffer losses in inventory, customers, staff and profits for years to come. What are you waiting for? Take the steps to protect your business from a fire-flood before it’s too late.