SF’s High-Pressure Water System Helps Put Out 5-Alarm Fire in SOMA/Mission

Earlier this morning, a five alarm fire broke out near 13th Street at Folsom in San Francisco. SFPUC crews were one of the first on-site to respond and support the fire department as they battled the flames. The blaze rapidly grew from a second alarm to fifth alarm fire within minutes.

SFFD crews attacked flames with water available at nearby hydrants, but it was not enough. The SFPUC’s City Distribution Division then introduced water from Twin Peaks Reservoir into the Emergency Firefighting Water System to support firefighting efforts. The pressure of the Emergency Firefighting Water System at the scene of the fire was 240 psi. There were two eight inch divide gates (College Hill to University Mound) that fully opened on the domestic system to assist firefighting operations. All SFPUC gate room personnel were engaged in responding to this fire.

Photo courtesy: Brian Castagne.
Photo courtesy: Brian Castagne.

The Emergency Firefighting Water System (also known as the Auxiliary Water Supply System or AWSS), was built in 1913 as an independent high-pressure water supply system dedicated to fire protection. The system consists of a 135-mile pipeline network, a high elevation reservoir, two large capacity tanks, two pumping stations, fire boats, cisterns (underground water storage tanks), and Bay water intakes (suction connections). The system has unique capabilities, including the ability to deliver water at much higher pressures and the ability to use unlimited water from the Bay.

The SFPUC assumed responsibility for the Emergency Firefighting Water System in 2011 to make long-lasting seismic and operational improvements. Upgrades to the City’s Emergency Firefighting Water System will help prepare San Francisco for multiple-alarm fires, natural disasters, and the unpredictable. Since 2012, seismic, operational and security upgrades have been made to several core facilities along with the installation of 30 new cisterns that will provide an emergency source of water for firefighting.

Video courtesy: Brian Castagne.