Partnership with Fire Departments Goes Beyond Water
by Kevin McCusker
Manager, Community Affairs
Water is essential to everyday life. Never is that more apparent than in an emergency. California’s ongoing battles with both urban and wildland fires serve as a reminder that our firefighters and emergency responders depend on a reliable water supply to save lives and property.
At Cal Water, we believe our partnership with local fire departments extends beyond providing water. Cal Water supports more than 50 fire departments and 125 stations in California, providing sufficient water supplies and pressure, plus emergency on-the-ground coordination, through hydrant maintenance and regular water main and other system upgrades. Our infrastructure investments and donations to local departments help provide our firefighters the support and resources they need to be safe and protect our communities in a state that has had more than nine million acres burned and more than 40,000 structures destroyed due to fires over the past five years.
In 2019, Cal Water established our annual Firefighter Grant Program—available to both professional and volunteer fire departments—to help offset the costs associated with fire protection efforts, equipment, training, and education. Since then, Cal Water has given more than $668,000 to fire departments throughout our service areas in California, with grants providing for equipment such as new hoses, nozzles, personal protective equipment, rapid inflatable rescue rafts, battery-powered hydraulic vehicle extrication tools, and recently, a HeloPod™.
Last month, Cal Water, in partnership with Los Angeles County Fire Department and the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, commissioned a new HeloPod firefighting dip source and cistern to protect life and property in one of southern California’s most fire-prone areas. As part of its annual Firefighter Grant Program, Cal Water provided a $38,000 grant to L.A. County Fire for the HeloPod, so helicopters do not have to land to fill their tanks with water; filling up a helicopter with a HeloPod is four times faster than filling up by landing.
This year’s 2023 grant applications have opened for fire departments that serve any portion of our service areas; these grants are more crucial than ever—every 23 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the U.S., and our changing climate is causing the frequency and severity of wildfires to grow, too.
Looking internally, Cal Water has studied the impact of wildfires in particular on our systems and has been implementing a holistic approach to recognize and respond to critical weather before a wildfire even sparks. By upgrading our water systems, preparing with emergency equipment, managing vegetation at our facilities, and training our employees, Cal Water can better safeguard the reliability of our water service and support our neighboring communities and emergency service personnel.
Each day, more than two million people rely on Cal Water to deliver water that’s safe for their everyday needs. Those same people also depend on the courageous firefighters working around the clock to safeguard our wellbeing. By helping to provide our local fire departments the technical support and equipment they need, together, we can enhance the protection of our communities and our emergency service teams that risk their lives for our own every day.