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Monsoon season brings more danger to Yarnell

PHOENIX -- Just three weeks after the deadliest wildfire in Arizona history took the lives of 19 Granite Mountain hotshots and destroyed more than 100 structures in Yarnell, flooding is now very much a concern in that community.

Jim Paxon with Arizona State Forestry said the Yarnell Hill Fire essentially burned almost everything on the hillsides near Yarnell, leaving very little to stop rainwater.

"The grass and brush hold everything in place," he said. "They act as a filter to slow water down. If the area sees heavy rainfall, they will see several incidents of flooding. Any rain over a half-inch over a short duration is going to be a problem."

Paxon said about 30,000 sandbags brought in by the Arizona Division of Emergency Management are in the process of being filled and will be placed around Yarnell homes to prevent flooding.

Paxon said it could be years before the hillsides recover.

"The grass will regrow if we have gentle rains and if we get out of this persistent drought and then that country will recover. The oak and manzanita will sprout and regenerate."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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