Officials track fires and prepare for floods

Jul 6, 2012

The recent rains brought some relief to New Mexico’s parched forests, but they also brought a rash of lightning-caused fires.

Firefighters are responding to several smoke reports in the Questa Ranger District, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. They expect no problems. However, more smoke reports are anticipated as temperatures increase and humidity decreases.

The largest blaze in the state’s history, the Whitewater-Baldy Fire in southwestern New Mexico, is nearly contained, but officials are now focusing on flooding threats. The U.S. Geological Survey has installed six flood-warning units in that burn area. They will transmit data to the National Weather Service and provide warnings to communities. Residents will be able to access the data online. In Lincoln County, officials plan to notify residents of potential flooding via an emergency call system.

And fire and flooding were the focus of a visit by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., this week. He met with Forest Service officials and ranchers in Catron County, which was hit by the Wallow Fire last year. Udall will visit Santa Clara Pueblo on Saturday to see areas impacted by last year’s Las Conchas fire. The pueblo suffered severe post-fire flooding.

Udall co-sponsored a bill with U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to eliminate the 30-day waiting period for flood insurance coverage to take affect after a policy is purchased. That legislation was part of the Flood Insurance Bill that passed the Senate on June 29.

Check out the videos at the Conservation Beat blog to see just how destructive post-fire floods can be.