NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Firefighters spent months fighting the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire. Now, crews are faced with a new task: repairing the land damaged in their efforts to fight the blaze, and that includes working to prevent flash flooding.
“We are here on behalf of the Calf Canyon suppression repair team. Basically, our job is to identify different damages we caused to the landscape while trying to stop the fire,” says Olivia Boraiko, fire line resource advisor.
From bulldozing washed-out county roads to make them passable again to chipping down debris… the goal is simple: “Now we’re in the period after the fire where we’re able to go back in and kind of remediate some of that damage,” Boraiko says.
Monday, crews worked to put debris on one landowner’s property through a woodchipper:
“We cut a lot of trees along that acequia and left those trees upslope of it and after fires you get a lot of floods and things like that because there’s less vegetation to catch all of that excess rainwater and so it can cause issues like flash floods and things,” Boraiko says, “So we’re here today to remove some of that material so that it doesn’t fill up that acequia and that way the drainage ditch can do it’s job in protecting the homes downstream.”
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They are also working to prevent more flash flooding, and repair damage already done. That includes repairing roads which have washed out, like one county road in Mora near Pacheco Village. “It was actually impassable a few days ago. There was a few vehicles at the backend that were stuck and some folks that weren’t able to get into their property back here,” says Luke Helfinstine with the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, “One of our big operations we’re helping out with is we’re assisting the county with a little bit of road repair.”
Those who live in the area say the flooding has been challenging. “The rains came, and the roads have been just so bad that we hadn’t been able to come through. I’m so happy they’re getting hopefully prepared for the next flooding if we do have additional flooding you know?” says Velma Rodriguez, who owns property in the area.
They still have months of work ahead of them. “As much as we’re trying to stop a big fire and prevent damage to communities and ecosystems, I think it’s also our responsibility to do the follow up work after that and take accountability of how we impacted the landscape,” Boraiko says.
Other operations in the fire suppression repair effort include fixing damaged fencing and gates, reseeding, repairing hand and dozer lines, removing vegetation, and repairing county roads and culverts.
Officials say there are more then 500 personnel working on fire suppression repair and around the fire. They tell News 13 private land is the number one priority for these repairs at the moment.