Watchman Helps Save Homes

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It was just after 3 p.m. on May 22, 2007, when a fire broke out in the heavily wooded area of Butte Creek Canyon in Chico, California. Firefighters brought the blaze under control two days later; the fire had consumed about 700 acres along and atop the south side of the canyon.

In between, the fire caused traffic disruptions on the Skyway -- a major thoroughfare -- and prompted over 100 residents to evacuate their houses. Ultimately, lives and buildings were spared.

This hilltop community is served by the Gran Mutual Water Company. The water company has a Distribution Operation contract with Durham Pump. A local well established pump contractor in the area. Had it not been for the attentiveness of the Distribution Operator the story above could have had a different outcome.

The water company is in the process of upgrading its water system. Their system would normally have two storage tanks with a capacity to store over 150,000 gallons of water for the explicit purpose of fighting local fires. Also, a new water well had just been completed and the well pump installed but had not been released to the distribution system for use.

Wildfire in Butte Creek Canyon, Chico, CAUnfortunately at the time of the fire one storage tank had been removed from service and demolished so that a new tank could be built in its place. With the Watchman System the water company and their operator could keep up with the system demands by making automatic adjustments to the system. The Watchman system could compensate for the reduced storage by adjusting storage tank levels based on demand, with the option of the new well pump producing enough capacity to fight a fire in the development.

On May 22nd, in the middle of the tank construction a fire did happen. The fire was a wildfire, not only a structure fire. The California Department of Forestry was fighting the fire with all available water. When the water system's Distribution Operator saw the fire he immediately reacted by going onsite to meet the additional water needs to fight the fire, by bringing the new well pump online. Airplane dumping fire retardant near houses in the area.

Iris Connection personnel were remotely adjusting pumps and tank levels to continue to provide the maximum capacity of the water system to fight not only the wild fire but to also protect the homes in the development. The operator, who was onsite assisting CDF could also view the status of all of the pumps and tank levels from the Watchman local control panel. Making adjustments as the demand was changing based on threats to structures and the surrounding areas.

Not only did the water distribution system perform admirably, the Watchman System provided much needed assistance at a critical time to protect structures and provide the fire fighters with the resources they needed to contain and control the wild fire threatening the homes.

As a result of the efforts of the Distribution Operator, the Watchman System and mostly the CDF, no structures or human lives were lost. Some homes were doused with fire retardant and most landscaping was charred, however this well maintained and managed water system provided "more than enough" water to meet their needs.