Tinder Fire raises concerns about risk to reservoir

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A wildfire was burning 1.5 miles from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5/SRP) A wildfire was burning 1.5 miles from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5/SRP)
C.C. Cragin is one of seven reservoirs managed by SRP, supplying 60 percent of the water that flows into the Valley. (Source: SRP) C.C. Cragin is one of seven reservoirs managed by SRP, supplying 60 percent of the water that flows into the Valley. (Source: SRP)
For years, Payson has been building 14 miles of pipeline from C.C. Cragin with nearly $14 million of the project going toward building a water treatment plant. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) For years, Payson has been building 14 miles of pipeline from C.C. Cragin with nearly $14 million of the project going toward building a water treatment plant. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
“The biggest concern if there's a major catastrophic fire is sediment that would possibly fill up the reservoir. It makes it difficult to treat the water," said SRP's Jeff Lane. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) “The biggest concern if there's a major catastrophic fire is sediment that would possibly fill up the reservoir. It makes it difficult to treat the water," said SRP's Jeff Lane. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PAYSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The U.S. Forest Service says the Tinder Fire came within a mile and a half of the C.C. Cragin Reservoir, raising concerns about protecting the water supply.

By late Monday morning, Salt River Project provided an update saying the wildfire appeared to be burning away from the reservoir.

[READ MORE: Communities in northeastern Arizona evacuated for 8,600-acre Tinder Fire]

C.C. Cragin is one of seven reservoirs managed by SRP, supplying 60 percent of the water that flows into the Valley. Though it’s one of the smaller water sources, SRP spokesman Jeff Lane says it has the highest wildfire risk.

“It's completely surrounded by dense forest,” says Lane. “The biggest concern if there's a major catastrophic fire is sediment that would possibly fill up the reservoir. It makes it difficult to treat the water.”

C.C. Cragin serves the Gila River Community. It’s also part of a $52 million project to send water to the growing Town of Payson. 

Tanner Henry, a spokesman for the Payson water department, says Payson currently has more than 8,000 water customers. For years, Payson has been building 14 miles of pipeline from C.C. Cragin with nearly $14 million of the project going toward building a water treatment plant. Henry says the project is expected to be complete in October.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona wildfires]

If a wildfire were to dump ash and sediment into C.C. Cragin, Henry says it would cost more money to ramp up water treatment operations and provide clean and safe water to Payson customers.

To protect C.C. Cragin and those who drink its water, the forest must be thinned out and debris cleared to mitigate fire risk. A spokesperson for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative said protecting C.C. Cragin is a priority and there are ongoing and future projects to reduce fire risk near the reservoir.

In May of 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation provided more than $76,000 to treat 39,000 acres and carry out prescribed burns on 64,000 acres to reduce fire risk near watersheds draining into C.C. Cragin.

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