CAL Fire concerned about how drought will affect firefighting efforts

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SAN DIEGO --  Lawns may be getting a bit brown around San Diego County as homeowners scale back their water use, but the drought is having a much bigger impact on firefighters - specifically CAL Fire.

The fire agency is very concerned about the dry conditions and  lack of water. CAL Fire is grappling with this problem especially in Southern California where it is always fire season.

“If we don’t have water to drink we definitely won’t have water to fight fires,” said CAL Fire Captain Kendal Bortisser.

As California enters its fourth year of a severe drought, the conditions for fire are at a peak.

“It was emphasized back to us in the early 80s that we have to conserve water. I mean you’ve got an engine with 500 gallons of water that’s all you got… so you better make that last," said Bortisser.

Bortisser said the drought is causing some of the worst fire conditions he’s seen in 30 years. He’s concerned about the drought and how it’s going to affect firefighting efforts.

“Our fire retardant at our air tac base for our air tankers is mixed with water, the water that we utilize in our fire engines to fight fires is something we rely on as well,” the captain said.

The question came up after a fire that was handled by the California Office of Emergency Services. The agency said structures continued to burn when a Shasta County town ran out of water.

Ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers and even the ocean are used as water sources, but with many of those sources drying up it can affect response time.

“We’re meeting tomorrow with San Diegho County Water Authority and one of the things we’ll be looking at is using reclaimed water as an option to be able to utilize for our helicopters to dip from," Bortisser said. "Certainly, there could potentially be some health affects and things like that so we’re going to look at all the possibilities cause we have to pull all the punches and ensure that the water is there for our firefighters to fight fire when we need it."

More portable sources or tanks will be used and another source that is less popular is using private water sources. CAL Fire says it will either replace the water or compensate the owner.

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