Regions throughout California are rebuilding after destructive wildfires wreaked havoc on communities across the state. In Lake County, the Sulphur Fire destroyed more than 100 homes in Golden State Water Company’s (GSWC) service area and posed a major threat to the water system as fires burned toward GSWC’s surface water treatment plant. Thanks to the tireless efforts of firefighters and other emergency personnel, as well as employees in the area and additional staff dispatched from throughout the state, GSWC was able to preserve the integrity of its Clearlake water system and maintain water service for firefighting and customer use.

Lake County Sulphur Fire. (Photo by Kurt Jensen)

Internal and external communications were crucial to ensuring the safety of customers, employees, and emergency personnel on the ground, while the fire posed a threat to local communities. GSWC initiated several communications tactics to inform customers about appropriate public health information, including reverse 9-1-1 calls, social media updates, local news reports, town hall meetings, and communications through the Lake County Sheriff’s Emergency Notification System. In addition, GSWC worked closely with the Clearlake Emergency Operations Center to ensure effective coordination and communication with the city. Because of the open communication lines, GSWC staff in Clearlake was equipped with the resources needed to respond to the fires in a safe and effective manner.

Shortly after being alerted of the dangers posed by the Sulphur Fire, GSWC issued a precautionary boil water notice to approximately 500 customers because of the possibility of contaminants entering the system due to a temporary loss of pressure in parts of the Clearlake system. The decision to issue the notice was made after consulting with the Division of Drinking Water, and the notice was lifted three days later after test results showed the water was safe.

A widespread power outage throughout the city of Clearlake created additional hurdles. Because of this, GSWC activated an interconnection with Highland Mutual Water Company to supplement water stored in system reservoirs to provide water to customers in the area. GSWC coordinated with local agencies to get generators and fuel onsite within 18 hours of the outage to continue producing water and maintaining long-term operations. A second temporary portable booster was installed between the Clearlake system and Konocti Water District to provide additional water for firefighting.

While no GSWC facilities were damaged by the fire, dozens of customers experienced tremendous loss. To help ease the burden, GSWC proactively closed the accounts of affected customers and adjusted water bills to absolve any balances due at the time of the fire.

GSWC is committed to helping the Clearlake community get back on its feet and is working with the Department of Drinking Water and the Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 to monitor and provide support to the impacted areas.

[Featured image: Damage from the Sulphur Fire. (Photo by Jim Rexrode)]

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