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Floods Follow Fires

Wildfires raise your flood risk by leaving the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water. That means even light rain can potentially turn into a financially devastating flash flood or mudflow and can occur with very little warning. This increased runoff may continue for several years after an area has burned and until vegetation is reestablished. A post-fire flood video from Cochiti Canyon in New Mexico is a good example of what can happen after wildfires. The District works with the Office of Emergency Management to provide flood alerts to residents within burned watersheds, where possible. To receive these alerts, you must sign up with MyAlerts and provide the property address(es) you are concerned about.

See below for important fact sheets:

Floods Follow Fires - El aumento en el Riesgo de Inundacion Despues de un Incendio

Understanding Mudflows - Las Avalanchas de lodo

Post-Fire Debris Flows

Debris flows are a common occurrence after an area has burned. As water runs downhill through burned areas, it can create erosion and undercut previously stable areas which causes large amounts of burned material (ash, sand, silt, rocks, trees) to become loose. As water and the material begin to move, the risk of damage to downhill areas increases. 

Be prepared - Create an Emergency Response Plan

Due to the topography and proximity to mountainous areas in Pima County, there is sometimes little to no warning of impending flash floods or debris flows. In the event of moderate to heavy rainfall it is best to take any emergency steps necessary to protect your life and property. Plan in advance to move away from the area and have a safety plan already in place. Plan ahead by creating an Emergency Response Plan.

Be Flood Safe

Many people do not associate Arizona with flooding, but a 2017 analysis determined that Pima County was the eighth deadliest county in the nation for flood related deaths in the preceding 20 years. That normally dry wash on your property or roadway could present a very real danger to you in times of floods. These floods can happen any time of the year - during a heavy summer monsoon storm, or during a long, slow winter storm. Flash floods can occur many miles away from the storm event that causes them. It is important to Be Flood Safe ahead of a rain storm.

Flood Insurance

The time to buy flood insurance is now. Homeowners, renters and business owners need to protect themselves financially from the devastating losses flooding can bring - including after a wildfire - before the next weather event occurs.

In general, new policies for flood insurance become effective following a 30-day waiting period. However, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 provided an additional exception to this requirement related to flooding caused by post-wildfire conditions, referred to as the Post-Wildfire Exception. Under the Post-Wildfire Exception, the standard 30-day waiting period does not apply to new policies if:

  1. The covered property experiences damage caused by flood that originated on Federal land;
  2. Post-wildfire conditions on Federal lands caused or worsened the flooding; and
  3. The policyholder purchased the policy either:
    1. Before the fire containment date; or
    2. During the 60-day calendar-day period following the fire containment date

If a structure covered by flood insurance floods within the 30-day waiting period, the insurance claims adjuster will determine if the waiting period exception criteria applies and will process the claim accordingly. 

Resources

Wildfires: You Need Flood Insurance

Guidance on the Application of Post-Wildfire Exception to 30-day Waiting Period for New Policies

Preferred Risk Policies

Polizas de Riesgo Preferido

Emergency Management

The Pima County Office of Emergency Management has initiated the development of the Pima County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in accordance with requirements of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. Visit the Pima County Office of Emergency Management web page to view the CWPP and other emergency management related information. The Pima County Bighorn Fire web page is another great resource for fire related information.

The District works with the Office of Emergency Management to provide flood alerts to residents within burned watersheds, where possible. To receive these alerts, you must sign up with MyAlerts and provide the property address(es) you are concerned about.

Cleanup Requests and Complaints

The Infrastructure Management Division processes Drainage Complaints related to public infrastructure such as public drainageways, bank protection, and/or detention/retention basins.

If you have an area of concern relating to debris, mud, or blockages of public infrastructure, call The Flood Control District at 520-724-4600 to submit a cleanup request or complaint.

2020 Bighorn Fire


The District is working as quickly as possible to assess the impacts of the Bighorn Fire on the flood risk to Pima County residents. Information will be posted here or on a separate web page to be established later as it becomes available. Please visit the Pima County Bighorn Fire web page. for general information about the Bighorn Fire. The National Weather Service also has useful information about debris flows and flooding on their Bighorn Burn Scar webpage.

A self-serve sandbagging station for residents is located at Brandi Fenton Park at the location shown on the map below.

Image showing self-serve sandbagging location at Brandi Fenton Park