Homes that managed to survive the devastating Little Bear fire may be in danger once again. This time because of flash floods.
Lincoln County Emergency Services officials said the mud and silt left behind by the Little Bear fire in the Lincoln National Forest are keeping Bonito Lake from doing its job as a reservoir, and if it overflows dozens of houses downstream could be wiped out.
Flooding could end up being twice the amount of the 100 year flood, according to Lincoln County officials.
Crews are working day and night to reduce the water level in Bonito Lake.
Ideally, the water should be about 20 feet below the spillway, but right now it is only about 6 feet below.
"The water flowing over that spillway into the Bonito River below will impact all the neighborhoods below, and there are a lot of homes that are in harm's way downstream that survived the fire, and now we're worried about the floodwaters," Michele Caskey, Lincoln County Emergency Services spokeswoman, said.
The debris from the fire filling the lake poses another danger.
"The debris itself, if water moves it, it gets a lot of momentum. So it's worse than just water because there's stuff that's in the water that's going to damage a lot of property, hopefully not lives, but they could be at stake," said Joe Savage, New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau District IV manager.
Once lush, green forests, now burnt to a crisp, are allowing too much water to flow down to the lake when it rains, and all of the debris is clogging up the dam.
Hundreds of yards of pipe going downhill have been set up to pump about 7 inches of water a day, but every time it rains it replaces the water they take out and they have to start all over again.
"Even an inch or an inch-and-a-half of rain can cause the level of the lake to rise two feet," Caskey said.
After the water level is under control, officials said it will take years for the lake to recover.
"For Bonito Lake and the surrounding forest to look like what they looked like three months ago is going to take decades," Caskey told ABC-7.
Officials are hoping to double the pumping capacity to remove about two feet of water a day and speed up the process.
The Westlake Campground along with the Blue Hole/Apple Orchard and the Lower Pasture will be closed for the remainder of the year due to flooding in the area after the Little Bear Fire.