Flood concerns rising in Monument Wildfire area

CREATED Jul. 8, 2011

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  • Cochise County gears up for flood preparation. Video by kgun9.com

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Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9- TV) - Residents in the areas devastated by the Monument Wildfire are now bracing for floods.  Forestry officials estimate a heavy rain could carry 15 hundred percent more debris and water down the canyon than before the fire.  That debris would threaten dozens of homes spared from the flames.

Karen LaMay is one homeowner who had a close call with the fire.

"Our house was saved, however on the other side of the road the houses are gone," she said.  The fire burned her well and several trees in her yard.  Living next to a wash, she's worried water could come even closer.

"Just last night I drove home and the street was already flooded," she said.  She has only seen the road flood once before in eight years. 

Forestry and Cochise County officials are done assessing burned areas and starting to clear debris and culverts to prepare for runoff.  With Monsoon in full swing, LaMay's biggest concern is that they won't finish in time for a big storm.

"The flooding has already started," she said, "and I can't even imagine how much there would be to do."

National Resource Conservation Service spokesperson Jerry Gonzales assembled teams to assist home-owners in harm's way.  The teams made up of volunteers, forestry crews and engineers will visit about 30 homes and assess their particular needs, whether it's tree-trimming, sand-bagging or re-seeding the area.

9 On Your Side reporter Jessica Chapin asked how much confidence he had in beating the clock and the storm clouds this season.

"As we speak there are people out there from the forest service in the upper regions of the watershed cutting logs and all that making sure their drainage is unplugged. We have the county clearing culverts and all that," he said, "It's hard to imagine that so much can be done in such a short period of time but that's what happens when people work together."

Cochise County is also distributing sand bags to anyone who needs them.  Those are available at their distribution center off Hwy 92 near King's Ranch.