A Reliable Water Supply for Fire Preparation

LA County Fire helicopter discharging water picked up from water supply station known as a Helopod May 23, 2024
by Director of Field Operations, Darin Duncan

As we wrap up National Wildfire Awareness Month and head into the fire-prone summer season, we at Cal Water understand how critical our infrastructure investments and efforts to support firefighters are to the state’s overall preparedness.

To provide reliable and safe water systems, as well as technical support, to more than 50 fire departments and 125 stations in California, we regularly conduct proactive and ongoing infrastructure maintenance and upgrades on more than 7,900 miles of pipe; 1,100 wells; 155,000 valves; and 600 storage tanks; 50,000 hydrants; and more. We also deliver regular emergency preparedness and response training for our employees so they can best support our first responders.

Climate change increases wildland and urban fires
Our changing climate creates more fire-hazard areas, because periods of less rain will increase dry vegetation and wetter years will provide more fuel to burn. Wildland-urban interfaces, where community fire spread can accelerate quickly, also continue to grow.

The effects of climate change extend beyond fires, with flooding and drought also presenting ongoing concerns. And, we recognize that preparedness comes in many different forms. One such way is understanding the effects of climate change, which allows us to make infrastructure investments that will improve sustainability, wildfire resilience, and flood protection while working to provide an adequate supply of local water sources.

We do this through continuous evaluation of our water systems and preventative maintenance so that, for example, the fire hydrants we maintain have reliable access and adequate pressure to meet the needs of firefighters in our communities. That’s also why, beyond our own proactive investments, we provide our customers with resources on how to be both water-wise and fire-wise, such as creating defensible space and planting a fire-resistant landscape with native plants that require little to no watering.

Proactive wildfire preparation
Internally, we’ve taken other proactive steps to enhance our readiness for wildfires and other potential disasters. A wildfire task force within our operations team conducts an annual review of our efforts across the entire company to enhance readiness and “fire hardening,” the physical strengthening of any landscape or structure to make it more fire-resistant.

We’ve both installed permanent emergency generators and procured portable generators to prepare for power shutoffs or outages, some related to potential fire-related weather conditions, and each of our key water stations is outfitted with external generator connections so that we can continue to provide water access even when the power goes out. Our stations also undergo vegetation management to remove tree or brush growth that could accelerate a fire, and our teams have been trained on how to wrap a water station in a foil fire blanket to keep heat away from facilities and protect outdoor panel boards.

When it comes to fire awareness, it’s important to know how first responders rely on us. But, we’re not the only ones who can provide that necessary support. Each of us up and down the state plays a role – whether that’s being water-wise and fire-wise at your own home, creating defensible space around your property, or sharing information with friends and family about their roles, too.

To learn more about what you can do, please visit our Water-wise Fire-wise page.