A volunteer firefighter was rescued by his fellow firefighters Monday evening after he became stuck in a culvert flooded by seasonal monsoon rains.
Jim Cooke of the Manzano Vista Fire Department in El Cerro Mission, was trying to open a drainage culvert on Santa Barbara Drive that had been plugged with used tires when the water swept him under.
“The water swept him in feet first,” said Valencia County Fire Marshal John Cherry. “He had to wait for the suction in the culvert to equalize before we could get him out.”
Cherry said Cooke was caught in the water up to his neck for about 15 to 20 minutes before fellow volunteer firefighters could rescue him. The fire marshal said Cooke was unhurt during the ordeal.
“He was checked out on the scene and released,” Cherry said Tuesday morning. “He was just wet and scared. He already went to work this morning.”
Residents in both Meadow Lake and El Cerro Mission experienced drastic flooding when the rain came swooping down on Valencia County’s east mesa Monday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of people up there with lake-front property,” Cherry said. “Right now, we haven’t received any reports of any property damage. But we weren’t able to get into some parts of the El Cerro Mission area.”
Because of the fast-moving run-off and poor drainage in the east mesa area, several major roads and private yards were covered with water from the sudden downpour. Cherry said some of the flooded areas were under three feet of water compared to numerous yards that were under one foot of water.
Volunteer firefighters from the Valencia-El Cerro, Meadow Lake and the Manzano Vista fire departments worked for three to four hours Monday evening, trying to alleviate the flooding. Cherry said although they couldn’t do much work in the El Cerro Mission area, firefighters pumped out water near mobile homes in the Meadow Lake community.
“It was a very strange storm,” Cherry said. “The storm came out of the east from the mountains and just dumped all that rain in Meadow Lake and El Cerro Mission. It (the rain) dissipated when it got to the valley, so the majority of people in the county didn’t even know it had rained.”
Meadow Lake experienced a similar battle with flooding a week and a half ago when another sudden rain drenched the east mesa community. Cherry said although the El Cerro Mission area was not affected by that downpour, the overflow of water in Meadow Lake was much worse during that rain.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.