Bandelier National Monument staff, with the assistance of the National Park Service Intermountain All Risk Management Team (Mossman IC) is continuing the process of damage assessment and rehabilitation after the Las Conchas Fire burned over 60 percent of the Monument. A Burned Area Emergency Response Team will be assessing post-fire threats to life, cultural/natural resources and property. They will determine effective measures to mitigate or minimize risks and implement emergency stabilization treatments.
Due to an increasing chance of large seasonal rain storms and the loss of vegetation as a result of the fire, there is great concern about potential flooding in Frijoles Canyon and other areas of the Monument. The Las Conchas Fire burned 11,000 acres of the canyon’s 12,000-acre watershed. More than 4,000 acres were so severely burned that no vegetation remains.
Frijoles Canyon receives approximately 95 percent of the Monument’s visitation. The canyon is home to the Monument’s only visitor center, the largest concentration of prehistoric cultural sites, the historic Civilian Conservation Corps district, administrative offices, several popular hiking trails, and 12 employee residences.
During the past several days, efforts have been focused on preparing structures and sites in Frijoles Canyon to withstand potential flooding. Artifacts and exhibits have been removed from the visitor center and relocated to secure storage areas. Sandbags and diversion dikes have been strategically placed to seal the visitor center and divert water away from facilities and historic sites in the canyon. Work to reinforce these efforts is expected to continue for the next several days.
A full assessment of the damage to the Monument’s cultural resources and wildlands is expected to take a long period of time. Some structures and developed areas have been damaged and may need to be repaired or removed. Early indications are that Frijoles Canyon should remain closed to visitor and administrative use through early autumn, at a minimum, because of the chance of flood activity during the monsoon season. Employees living in Frijoles Canyon remain displaced from their homes and will have to stay in alternate accommodations until the safety of their homes in the canyon can be assured.
While the park remains closed, the incident management team is focused on working with park staff to restore park administrative functions, resolve housing issues for displaced employees, and develop a plan for resuming visitor services as quickly as possible. Following the principles of operational leadership, an early warning system has been put in place to forewarn employees working in the canyon in the event of flash flooding.