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Bighorn Fire site still a runoff concern

Pima Flood Control watching burned zone
Posted at 7:07 PM, Jul 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-13 22:07:05-04

TUCSON, Ariz (KGUN) — Last year’s monsoon was a weather weakling, but this year’s storms have already dropped a lot of rain. Pima County Regional Flood Control is working to keep the rain a positive force---as it watches for trouble from a wildfire that burned through a year ago.

We're hoping for a bigger and better monsoon and so far it looks like we have one so how is Pima County Regional Flood Control coping with the flow? And what about the danger of increased runoff from the remains of the Bighorn fire?

By late morning, there was still plenty of water in the containment zones at the Kino Environmental Restoration area. It’s one of many catch basins Pima Flood Control uses to hold water and let it gradually ease back into the environment.

Joseph Cuffari of Flood Control says, ‘All of our infrastructure has held up so far during this monsoon season. We've done a lot of preventative maintenance throughout the year. And now we're just kind of in a wait and see period to see what happens with these monsoons. But we have crews out there ready to respond and fix infrastructure if needed.”

Cuffari says some street flooding is hard to avoid, especially in Tucson’s midtown, where streets were designed without the storm sewers common in newer neighborhoods.

Flood Control is also watching the mountains burned in last year’s Bighorn fire.

Video from last year shows black water and debris flowing through the CDO Wash. It was debris from the Bighorn Fire, and there’s still more on the mountainsides that could come down if a strong storm pounds the burn zone.

There's extra concern about runoff from the Bighorn fire scar because of what the fire did to the land itself. Not only did it burn off the vegetation that can slow down the runoff. It changed the ground. Instead of being normal earth that could absorb the water it’s glazed and hardened so it behaves more like pavement.”

So far, the storm patterns have simply not hit the burn zone in a way that could bring down more debris.

Joseph Cuffari warns you could face a flash flood even if it’s not raining where you are.

“The warning potential for flash flood related hazards is pretty quick. So if it is raining up on a mountain from a watershed and you know you have to drive in that general area. Please be cautious of low level crossings and out grade crossings.”