A team of 12 SFPUC plumbers are headed up to Paradise for the first week of June. They will be there to help get a piece of the downed water system working again for the small number of people who’ve managed to stay at home in the small foothill town burned out by the November 2018 Camp Fire.
The firefighting completely depressurized the whole system, according to SFPUC supervising plumber Bill Teahan, who went to Paradise earlier this month to initiate the Agency’s disaster assistance in response to the Paradise Irrigation District request for mutual aid. There are about 10,000 service connection lines, but only about 10% of the customers have stayed on, he says. “Our job is to get the water system up and running for them.”
The team will go block by block to restore each of those lines. They will pull out the meter for each, install sampling apparatus, and then flush the line.
“We’ll work as hard and quickly as possible—overtime if necessary,” Teahan says. “We’ll quadruple their work force overnight.”
All 12 volunteered for the assignment, says Sean Duffy, the plumber who will be leading the group. “We’re all excited to be going up to help with the water recovery for the people of Paradise.”
Both Duffy and Teahan are veteran first responders, dating back to the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Duffy assisted quake victims through the Red Cross, and Teahan was on the SFPUC immediate repair crews, who went 24/7.
But Paradise is a “different dimension” for Teahan. “I lost a house of my own in the Valley Fire a few years ago,” he says. “So I know what those people are going through.”
A team of Water Quality Division technicians will follow a week or two later. They will collect samples from the flushed lines for testing at nearby certified laboratories. Another SFPUC deployment will go up later this summer if needed.
In November 2018, the City and County of San Francisco deployed 93 employees to support fire response and recovery efforts in Butte County and Southern California. Murat Bozkurt, a SFPUC project manager, was deployed as part of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 4. Read his story here.