WBighorn Fire debris begins to flood into washes amid monsoon season

Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 3:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - While the Bighorn Fire continues to burn, the threat of flames is shifting to the threat of flooding- and recently shot video shows just how dangerous, even deadly, the situation can be.

It’s an eerie and apocalyptic sight, seeing a fast moving wall of black water as it rages down the Cañada Del Oro Wash in Golder Ranch the evening of July 15. It’s filled with soot, ash and burned debris from the Bighorn Fire in the Catalinas where the CDO Wash originates on the backside of the mountains.

With so much charred land, the vegetation isn't there to absorb rain water. The blackened ground, or burn scar, can get hard like pavement, acting as a water repellent.

Andy Dinauer with Pima County’s Flood Control District says there’s a half dozen areas the agency is watching closely in addition to the CDO Wash- including the Pima Wash along with Ventana and Sabino Canyons.

“The next few flows in the CDO and the multiple water courses on the front side of the Catalinas, it’s going to be a significant amount of volume in those water courses of a given storm event.”

Imagine though, if this wall of water came crashing down at night.

“If that crosses a roadway at night, a person driving a vehicle, going into a wash crossing is not going to see that,” Dinauer warns. “It’s black, it’s like oil running down the wash so it makes it even harder to see at night. You really gotta stay out of those washes at night when it’s the monsoon season.”

Dinauer says it's also a reminder that washes can flood even when not's raining overhead, "it doesn't have to be raining where you're at, to have the water running in the water course and that's what can be scary. Somebody downstream would have no idea it's coming cause it's not raining where they're at and the water comes crossing the road."

For now, Dinauer says it's important to stay away from washes during the monsoon and let mother nature run its course, "it'll pass with time but it's going to take multiple storm events to flush all that material out."

Pima County has an alert system you can sign up for that will send you a text message if and when flooding is happening. You can sign up for that by clicking [here].

Debris from the Bighorn Fire flows down the CDO Wash at Edwin Road.

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