Liquid News

Preparing for Summer Fire Season

Summer is here and the heat is rising. When temperatures rise, the Irvine Ranch Water District operations staff remains in a constant state of readiness to respond to fires and/or loss of power in our service area.The water operations department routinely patrols and monitors the canyon areas. A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is used to remotely monitor all aspects of pump station and reservoir operation. This system uses radio, phone lines and cellular telemetry units to relay information.

All of the pump stations serving the canyon areas are equipped with generators that provide power automatically in the event of a power outage. These generators are tested monthly to ensure proper operation. The fuel tanks are kept full, and the fuel is routinely filtered and sampled for quality. The automatic transfer switches, which direct generator power to pump stations, are inspected and tested annually.

IRWD has battled fire season before. In 2007, the Santiago Fire burned over 28,000 acres, most of which were in the IRWD service area. When the fire occurred, IRWD crews implemented emergency operations procedures and worked around the clock to keep the water flowing to firefighters by connecting emergency generators, operating pumps and manually measuring reservoir depths in areas where downed power lines disabled electronic monitoring systems. IRWD crews installed portable diesel tanks throughout the area to refuel the generators and installed remote communication devices to restore monitoring systems until phone lines became operational again. Due to these efforts, water service to firefighters and residents was maintained throughout the fire episode. After the fire, all sites were evaluated, resulting in improvements to several pump stations including the installation of block walls for added fire protection.

IRWD customers with homes in the foothill and canyon areas are encouraged to look into the benefits of maintaining fire resistant landscaping. The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) endorses planting shrubs such as monkeyflower and autumn sage as well as trees like the California sycamore and toyon. Learn more about these plants on the IRWD website.

Plant maintenance is also necessary for fire resistant plants to offer protection during a wildfire. Watch this video to view an OCFA guide on fire resistant plants. 

Bruce Newell, Senior Reserve Officer at OCFA Station 16 in Modjeska Canyon, also recommends visiting OCFA's website, ocfa.org. "We are currently in the READY stage," explains Newell. "It is the perfect time to clean up around any structure and make a good defensible space. A wonderful wet winter has produced tall grasses and other plants that are now drying out and must be removed or cut back. Warmer weather will soon heighten the risk of fire."

Another important thing for Canyon residents to do is to sign up for IRWD’s CodeRED system. Do not wait for an emergency to happen before you sign up for CodeRED, a high-volume, high-speed system for mass emergency notifications. Since 2010, IRWD has kept customers informed in times of water-related emergencies with CodeRED. Customers have the option of receiving voice, email or text messages within an hour of an emergency. Signing up for CodeRED is as easy as going to the IRWD website.

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