Cal Water news release

Cal Water Supports Kern County Firefighters

FirefighterCal Water is committed to supporting the firefighters who protect the communities we serve. We truly appreciate the kind words Kern County Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Dionisio Mitchell sent us after the recent French Fire in the Kern River Valley area.

Date: August 31, 2021

To: California Water [Service]

Attention: Jon Yasin

Lots of the successes that are achieved on emergency incidents take place before an incident even takes place. On June 23, 2016, the Erskine Fire impacted the residents of Kern River Valley in many ways. As a result of the loss associated with that incident there was a great deal of lessons learned that our agency was able to take away. The other piece of that though was what I saw coming from [Cal Water] and their takeaways. As a former Battalion Chief, in the Battalion 7 area that encompasses the Kern River Valley, I was contacted by Mr. Yasin on behalf of Cal Water. He had kindly explained that Cal Water was vested in ensuring that they could be doing everything possible for emergency preparedness by partnering with their local First Responders.

The level of communications was made evident as there was a good presence from the water company on incidents around the Kern River Valley, and Mr. Yasin would check in with Battalion Chiefs to make sure that the company was meeting the needs of the incident. On top of this, Mr. Yasin wanted to ensure to us that their pumps and water service would be good to go in the event we lost power with generator backup in place. This was to confirm that our Firefighters would always have water available to us during emergency incidents. Taking the time to prepare and verify that the water system was ready to go in emergency incidents paid off tremendously.

As you already know the French Fire started on August 18 and immediately presented a huge threat to the community of Isabella Highlands tract. This fire ended up impacting multiple communities in the Kern River Valley as it quickly became an established fire. Due to the complexity of the incident a Type 2 Incident Management Team was called in to assist with managing the incident. On the afternoon on August 24 the fire had spotted across Highway 155 and quickly became an imminent threat to the communities of Pala Ranches and Wofford Heights.

I spoke with our Incident Commander, Chief Billy Steers, who had notified me that these communities were going to encounter extreme fire behavior in moments. As a result of fire conditions our Firefighters went into rescue mode to do their very best at getting our residents to safety. Part of what made those efforts effective was our Firefighters having water to fight fire while simultaneously performing rescue measures. Within those moments is when water matters the most, and in those moments is when Cal Water delivered.

The efforts of Mr. Yasin in working collaboratively with Incident Commander Steers to let him know what water systems were operational and an asset for our Firefighters to use should be commended! This proved to be a crucial aspect in the operational effectiveness of our Firefighters being able to perform life threatening rescues, but being protected with water to use in their firefighting efforts. Thank you to Cal Water and Mr. Yasin for being that advocate on the water district side to provide our Incident Commander with invaluable information which proved to be a deciding factor on lives and property saved.

I have no doubt that this can all be traced to the pre-planning that went into effect following a tragedy that was experienced by so many in the years previous. However, Cal Water stepped up to figure out a way to assist and be an asset for First Responders. As a result of this commitment we were very successful on the French Fire! I wanted to personally thank Mr. Yasin and Cal Water for your dedication and hard work to give us a credible water system that we can depend on. Your hard work directly protects us in the Fire Service, and ultimately shows your customers you care about their well-being. If you ever need anything never hesitate to reach out as we are proud to work alongside you!


Dionisio Mitchell
Deputy Chief Operations
Kern County Fire Department