As residents of Clearpoint and Ondulando neighborhoods evacuated on Dec. 4, firefighters were left with little to suppress the Thomas Fire. Ondulando residents noted that the hydrants had been replaced leading up to the fire, only to have them fail to bring any water.
According to city documents detailing the four phases of replacing the hydrants in Ondulando, the cost estimates averaged about $8 million to replace 81 hydrants. While Clearpoint hydrants also failed, they had not been replaced.
Looking back and moving forward, Ventura Water General Manager Kevin Brown, who had only been on the job for two months when the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura, discussed where the city is regarding the issue.
“Litigation has been filed regarding the Thomas Fire that names the City as a defendant. City litigation is handled by the City Attorney’s office. While the City generally does not comment on pending litigation, I can provide a general description of what occurred.
“On Dec. 4, 2017, prior to the fire reaching the city, the water system was appropriately pressurized. In the early morning on Dec. 5, 2017, low water pressures were reported at several fire hydrant locations in the hillsides. The system lost pressure because water was being drained at a tremendous rate due to the extent of the fire response and due to leaks caused by fire damage. Leaks were addressed, back-up generators were utilized on electric facilities and eventually the system was fully re-pressurized.
“Ventura Water constantly evaluates its system as part of regular operations and maintenance and to execute necessary capital improvements.
“Looking towards the near future, we are increasing the city’s and our region’s drought and disaster resiliency through diversifying our water portfolio with the State Water Interconnection and potable reuse programs. Potable reuse provides a drought resistant and consistent water supply. The State Water Interconnect will enable the city to receive its State Water allocation. These programs will enable the city and the surrounding communities to receive water through multi-use water pipelines in the event of a disaster or prolonged drought. In addition state water and potable reuse water are high quality. Blended with our existing groundwater supplies it will reduce turbidity and provide the city with a high quality drinking water.”