When the Ranch and River Fires (subsequently combined as the Mendocino Complex Fire) flared up on July 27, 2018, more than 100 California Water Service (Cal Water) employees from several service areas mobilized to provide support for residents in Cal Water’s Lucerne service area. At currently more than 400,000 acres, this massive wildfire is the largest in California history and more than half the size of Rhode Island.
As residents fled after mandatory evacuation orders were issued, Cal Water treatment plant operators and support staff were escorted by Cal Fire personnel to ensure firefighters had sufficient water supplies and pressure to fight the fire. They also kept the system running properly with pre-positioned backup generators to provide residents with safe, reliable water when they returned.
Since fewer than 10 Cal Water employees run the operations that serve 1,200 Lucerne customers, the water system and treatment plant were operated remotely from Cal Water’s Emergency Operations Center located about 85 miles away in its Marysville service area. Additionally, with the increasing number of wildfires in the state, Cal Water relies on the expertise of two employees, who are former fire chiefs, to help coordinate response efforts with Cal Fire and other agencies.
After the mandatory evacuation order was lifted for the Mendocino Complex Fire, Cal Water employees immediately set up two care stations in Lucerne to provide food and water for returning residents.