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Firefighters Now Putting Focus on Flood Control

Nature: In areas laid bare by the blazes, even a little rain could send torrents rushing down hillsides. But most evacuees return home.

July 06, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — Crews turned their attention Friday from fighting fires to preventing floods in areas denuded of vegetation by wildfires. On hillsides where blazes burned intensely and stripped the soil bare of all living organisms, water rolled off the ground as if it were asphalt.

Residents from 200 homes in Glenwood Springs, about 150 miles west of here, were back home after being evacuated because of a forecast of rain the night before.

"One thunderstorm died out at the last minute," said Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Just one-tenth of an inch of rain could send a wave of water and debris down Mitchell Creek toward homes, said Guy Meyer, of Garfield County Emergency Management.

"We all pretty much knew that there was a part two to this and that the fire in and of itself wasn't the end of it," Meyer said.

Crews also were working on installing hay bales and straw, secured with netting, to absorb water and slow its flow down the hillside.

Wildfires still burned in parts of several Western states, including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. In Colorado, firefighters were gaining on the 73,145-acre blaze north of Durango.

A light rain, not enough to cause flooding, fell as crews worked to stop the fire from spreading eastward, fire information officer Chris Zajicek said. The fire was 75% contained. Residents from four ranches and 34 homes remained evacuated.

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