The Tubbs Fire that ravaged Sonoma County in October destroyed more than 5,000 structures and claimed 22 lives. More than 600 homes in California American Water’s (CAW) Larkfield-Wikiup district were lost, which is nearly one-third of CAW’s customer base.
CAW’s employees, many of whom were evacuated during the fire, worked around the clock amid the destruction to maintain adequate water pressure in the lines for firefighters. They also worked closely with the American Red Cross to ensure emergency water supplies were provided to customers who were without water. After the fires subsided, CAW moved quickly to restore water service to surviving homes. Service was restored for most customers within a week of the fire’s outbreak.
The fire also created significant customer service and billing challenges. To relieve the burden on affected customers as much as possible, CAW pre-closed accounts for properties destroyed in the fire and implemented goodwill credits.
Further assisting in recovery efforts, CAW partnered with the American Water Charitable Foundation to provide a $100,000 grant to the Redwood Credit Union Community Fund North Bay Fire Relief for fire victims.
Much work remains to rebuild, repair, and replace infrastructure damaged or destroyed during the fire. CAW’s employees in Larkfield are determined to do their part to bring the community back – a determination that is matched by the town’s residents, agencies, and elected officials.
In his overall assessment, CAW President Richard Svindland praised the efforts of his employees during the fire. “I cannot adequately convey just how admirably they performed during this crisis,” Svindland said. “Whether it was our Larkfield field staff working among the first responders in the opening days of the fire turning off services to preserve pressure and adequate fire flow or the water quality team who worked around the clock to restore folks’ water. During the course of several days, some employees worked 20-plus-hour shifts amid dramatic devastation and loss of life. This event will be studied for years to come, providing invaluable lessons for future disasters. One thing I’ve learned already is that the devastation would have been a lot worse if not for the actions of our local staff.”