Thursday, August 02, 2018

Ute Park Fire’s aftermath: Water supply woes, economic damage

Andrew Oxford

A crew armed with buckets and shovels trudged toward Cimarron’s reservoir to scoop away the muck that had accumulated in recent rains. All that debris had threatened to block the flow of water that eventually makes its way to this northeastern New Mexico community of about 1,000 people. And with the village no longer able to draw water from the Cimarron River as a result of a major wildfire this spring, the reservoir is all it has. Despite the storms in this scorched part of the state, the area has faced the threat of going dry after the Ute Park Fire wreaked havoc on its water supply. The Cimarron River had provided water for much of Colfax County, but communities now have to look elsewhere as monsoon rains send ashes and debris from the burn scar into its currents...The Ute Park Fire, which started in late May, did not destroy any homes. But it did burn several outbuildings at Philmont Scout Ranch west of Cimarron along with more than 26,000 acres on that property. This time of year, the ranch ordinarily would host Boy Scout troops from around the country, but it has instead been forced to close its backcountry. That means fewer travelers passing through the community. Putting out a fire amounts to just a fraction of a fire’s cost, according to a recent study by the think tank Headwaters Economics. The organization analyzed several major fires and found suppressing a fire averaged just 9 percent of its total cost. The majority of a fire’s costs come from long-term damage communities face in subsequent years and decades. These include depreciated property values, infrastructure repairs and the work of restoring battered ecosystems...MORE

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