Crews fighting New Mexico wildfires now fear floods

July 5, 2011SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) – As firefighters made progress saving Indian pueblo lands on the north end of New Mexico’s largest wildfire, officials worried on Monday about a possible second punch from Mother Nature — flash floods. The fast-burning Las Conchas fire exploded on the scene a week ago, triggering the temporary evacuation of the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. It has since charred more than 123,500 acres, the biggest torching of the state’s lands in history. But forecasters say seasonal rains are finally showing up across the tinder-dry Southwest, moving toward New Mexico. “We’ve gone straight from fire danger to flood danger, so it’s one thing after another,” said a frustrated Jason Lott, superintendent of the Bandelier National Monument, a revered ancestral home of New Mexico’s pueblo Indian natives. Lott said more than 50 percent of the park, which consists of a total of 33,750 acres, has already been scorched by the Las Conchas blaze, although the visitor’s center, historic lodge and the ancient Tyounyi Pueblo ruins have been spared. Those same structures, however, may now be threatened by flash floods expected with the state’s monsoon season. “It could be tomorrow, or in a couple weeks,” Lott said. The risk to flooding has been aggravated by the raging wildfire which has burned off trees, ground-hugging grasses and vegetation, raising concerns that any run-off will barrel down canyons unchecked, causing creeks to burst their banks. Crews at Bandelier began working on Monday to clear stream beds, removing logs and other debris creating a clearer path so waters cannot back up and flood historic sites and buildings. Many buildings will be sandbagged and hopefully sealed from the waters, Lott said. –Yahoo News
contribution Warren
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