Q&A with California Firefighters: “Partnership is our lifeline to protecting lives and property”
Water is essential to everyday life. Never is that more apparent than in an emergency. California’s recent battles with a series of devastating wildfires serve as the latest reminder that our firefighters and emergency responders depend on reliable water service to save lives and property every day.
Cal Water supports more than 50 fire departments and 120 stations in California, providing water supply and pressure, emergency on-the-ground coordination, hydrant maintenance, and regular main replacement. Cal Water has served the Stockton Fire Department for more than 90 years, forging a valuable partnership that has evolved as the city expands. Under the leadership of Fire Chief Erik Newman, the department serves and protects more than 330,000 people across 90 square miles and fights an average of 400 structure fires each year.
We sat down with Brandon S., a firefighter with the Stockton Fire Department, and John L., a captain who has been with the department for 23 years, to learn more about the resources upon which they rely on and how Cal Water works with firefighters to ensure reliable water service in emergency situations.
What do you like about being a firefighter?
JOHN: The best part of being a fireman is not only the camaraderie, it’s making a difference, saving lives, and helping out the community.
BRANDON: Getting the opportunity to help people. People call 9-1-1 when they’re having the worst day of their life and getting the opportunity to go and help them, mitigate the issue, and make their day better is ultimately rewarding.
What is the biggest challenge of being a firefighter?
BRANDON: Never knowing what you’re up against. You could be going to a medical call, fire, or vehicle accident, but every situation shows itself differently. You have to be a problem-solver and think outside the box in order to mitigate the situation.
How busy is the Stockton Fire Department?
JOHN: In an average year, the Stockton Fire Department puts out approximately 400 structure fires. One engine can receive upwards of 50 calls per shift in a 48-hour period—over 6,500 calls per year.
How does your department and Cal Water work together to prevent fires from getting out of control?
JOHN: The support that Cal Water gives the Stockton Fire Department, or fire service in general, is behind the scenes. Once we arrive at the scene of a fire, we see what we need and then radio through our dispatch center to Cal Water to increase the water supply and pressure, if needed. We recently had a multiple-alarm fire and needed to use many hydrants at a high GPM (gallons per minute) to put out a fire. Cal Water increased the pressure, which gave us the ability to put out the fire. Cal Water provides a reliable water source, consistent communication, and state-of-the-art water systems.
BRANDON: Cal Water helps the Stockton Fire Department do our job effectively by supplying us with adequate volume and pressure so we can suppress the fire. We rely on this volume and pressure every day.
Apart from fires, what other types of situations do you face?
JOHN: Sometimes we have incidents where it’s not a fire; it is a hazmat incident. A hazardous material can be a number of things—a spill or a gas, for example. We use the water from Cal Water to knock down the fumes, to dilute the hazardous spill, and contain the incident by keeping it from spreading.
What do you need most to do your job?
JOHN: This fire department is very busy—we have numerous structure fires. We need to know that we can count on Cal Water, the water supply, and the staff to do our job. Our partnership with Cal Water indirectly and directly saves lives because it’s our lifeline to protecting property and lives. Without a reliable water source, the fire department could not do our job.
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It is essential that firefighters have enough water supply and water pressure to effectively do their jobs. Cal Water appreciates everything that California firefighters and first responders do every day to protect lives and property. We are committed to supporting emergency needs by providing safe, reliable water service in the more than 110 communities we serve throughout California.