On Tuesday night, flames from the Loma fire were still blazing and a growing plume decorated the sky, visible for dozens of miles throughout the South Bay. Requested by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Santa Clara Valley Water District dispatched a water truck and staff to the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Morgan Hill to help fight the fire Wednesday morning.

For about 12 years, the water district has been assisting emergency response in fire incidents by contributing water trucks and qualified firefighting staff. District water trucks can hold 2,000 gallons and are used to supply CAL FIRE trucks in operation. Rather than have the CAL FIRE trucks make several trips to the nearest water source, the water district saves time by filling up the tanks with water from a well, pond, creek or local fire hydrant, to deliver to the incident site. In addition, the water district trucks can function as a reserve tank as they carry as much as three to four times the capacity of CAL FIRE’s trucks.

Water district staff and equipment operate on site 24 hours a day until released by CAL FIRE. The water district has about 10 staff members fully qualified and outfitted with fire equipment. Every year they are required to undergo CAL FIRE training as well as internal water district emergency operations training.

Another resource the water district also lends is much more basic: water. CAL FIRE helicopters were spotted over Almaden and Calero reservoirs drawing water to fight the fire.

As part of the CAL FIRE emergency response air program, aircraft, including airtankers and helicopters, are used to carry fire retardant or water over critical areas of the fire. There are 22 “air attack” and “helitack” bases located throughout the state. Helicopters are usually located on facilities near timberlands and critical watershed areas. The aircraft can reach most fires within 20 minutes. Helicopters, like the ones photographed by water district staff (see photos below), can operate at a speed of up to 126 mph, and have a carrying capacity of 320 gallons.

To learn more about the CAL FIRE Aviation program, click here.

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