Yucaipa Valley Water District Implementation Manager Matthew Porras reported that the R-17.1 drinking water facility located in the North Bench area east of Jefferson Street in Yucaipa was instrumental in fighting the El Dorado Fire with the district operating two steel drinking water storage reservoirs in that area.
The original water storage structure at this site was an open reservoir that held approximately 2 million gallons of water and was constructed in the 1930s. In the mid-1970s, the open reservoir was replaced with a single bolted steel tank. In the early 1980s, a second bolted steel tank was constructed to help supply water to the community. The two bolted steel tanks are still in place and provide service to the northerly area.
Porras said, “These two bolted steel tanks are about 38 feet in diameter, 24 feet tall and hold about 200,000 gallons of water. The event of the El Dorado Fire did have an interesting correlation with the time frame of the leak that developed in one of these reservoirs. The El Dorado Fire burn area burned right up around this facility.”
A leak was noted before the fire activity but did become significantly worse. The condition of the leaking reservoir was severe enough that after the fire burnt through the area, staff removed and isolated the tank from service, leaving the other tank (R-17.1.1) in service.
“The fire burned right up to our facility … There are opportunities in the future to look at other improvements that may add and bolster our fire line facility for future expansion,” said Porras.
In the initial repair and replacement project, the district is looking at getting this facility back functioning and having it be stronger than it was before. The goal would be to replace the two tanks on the same pad with some grading necessary to make the pad bigger. Porras said that both tanks are in the condition that they could be replaced and upgraded. The district staff has initiated the site layout and planning to update these structures to comply with current seismic requirements which would include tank heightening and securing the tanks. The department also would increase the operational storage volume for future demands and fire protection.
At this time, the project would consist of replacing both tanks within the existing pad and adding a back-up power supply. The staff’s goal is to get the upgrades done by June of 2021.
Director Joyce McIntire said, “I was surprised the tanks were extensively used for the fires and how exactly were they used?”
Porras answered her by saying, “It is a combination of an aerial fire line and attacks essentially from open top reservoirs.”
“Our systems are used in coordination with other infrastructure extensively during in a fire, directly and indirectly in the different zones. This zone is right up against the fire line and our fire line facilities interact between the community and the wild land areas. Our structures and facilities are used as fire protection for the developed structures that are in the community,” said Porras.
McIntire asked if the firefighters were there to protect the tanks. Porras said the fire burned right up to the facility as there were not really any scorch marks on the tanks themselves but when a piece of infrastructure goes through a really extreme environment, there might be some related effects.
“There are fire trucks and bulldozers running up and down the hillside next to it,” said Porras.
Director Jay Bogh said, “This is the most important tank in the entire system. This tank is the reason my house exists today because this tank is about 100 yards from my house.”
Porras said, “This is a perfect example of typical demands that would happen during a fire. It’s not just fire trucks hooking up to a fire hydrant as there are all types of demands. When we look at resizing or replacing these, a slightly larger tank with more operational storage and flow capacity is not a bad idea per incremental cost increase.”
Supporting documents are available for public view at documents.yvwd.dst.ca.us.