CalFIRE firefighting helicopter flies over Loveland Reservoir. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Loveland Reservoir Serves As Vital Resource in Fighting Recent Wildfire

Earlier this week, a fire broke out near Sweetwater Authority’s (Authority) Loveland Reservoir in Alpine, California. Authority staff swiftly responded to assist emergency services with access and logistics in their effort to fight the wind-driven fire, which burned approximately 18 acres before being contained.

Loveland Reservoir, an important drinking water resource for Authority customers, served as a vital asset in providing water to firefighters during a recent wildfire response. Approximately 32,000 gallons of water were lifted from the near-full reservoir by San Diego Gas & Electric and San Diego Sheriff helicopters to aid with fire suppression.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFIRE) water trucks also used the reservoir property’s on-site fire hydrant for their fire-fighting efforts.

During the incident, the reservoir property was used as a staging area and incident command center.

“This shared effort between Sweetwater Authority and emergency services demonstrates the importance of community partnership in times of crisis,” said Board Chair Paulina Martinez-Perez. “We greatly appreciate the dedication and bravery of first responders and are proud to have been able to assist them during this incident.”

Loveland Reservoir is once again open for recreational activities. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Loveland Reservoir is once again open for recreational activities. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

During the incident, the Authority temporarily closed its Loveland Recreation Program to protect the safety of those in the area. The program has since reopened to normal hours. View more information at


Left group, front row: San Marcos councilmembers Ed Musgrove and Mike Sannella; San Marcos Deputy Mayor Sharon Jenkins; San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones. Back row: San Marcos Fire Department Fire Marshall/Battalion Chief Jason Nailon. Right group, front row: Vallecitos Board Member Craig Elitharp and President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, Ph.D.; Vallecitos Operations and Maintenance Manager Ed Pedrazzi. Back row: Vallecitos Board Member Jim Pennock with grandson; Vallecitos Board Member Erik A. Groset, Vallecitos General Manager James Gumpel. Photo: Vallecitos Water District wildfire preparedness HeloPod

Vallecitos Water District, City of San Marcos, and CalFIRE Collaborate on Wildfire Preparedness

In preparation for the 2024 wildfire season, the Vallecitos Water District and City of San Marcos worked with the California Division of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFIRE) to provide a new water source to aid firefighters.

On Tuesday, April 30, Vallecitos Board President Tiffany Boyd-Hodgson, Ph.D., and San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the District’s new HeloPod, including a demonstration of the new tool in use. CalFIRE representatives joined water and city officials for the event.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department helicopter demonstrates how it deploys water from the HeloPod in firefighting. Photo: Vallecitos Water District wildfire preparedness

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department helicopter demonstrates how it deploys water from the HeloPod in firefighting. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

“The Vallecitos Water District, the City of San Marcos, San Marcos Fire, and Cal-Fire have demonstrated our commitment to progress and partnership by providing the resources, expertise, people, and political will to achieve this benefit to our community. Today we are marking an occasion of progress and partnership as much as we are celebrating the milestone in-service of the HeloPod,” said Boyd-Hodgson.

“This important new weapon in our fight against wildfire stands as a testament to how government agencies can work together to protect our quality of life, our property and our community for years to come,” added Boyd-Hodgson.

See a demonstration video of the HeloPod.

The HeloPod is located next to a Vallecitos Water District-owned water storage tank east of North Las Posas Road in the Santa Fe Hills area.

CalFIRE provided the HeloPod unit to Vallecitos. Facilities and maintenance personnel installed it in its permanent location in San Marcos. It is eight feet long, six feet wide, and five feet deep.

HeloPod Helps Improve Wildfire Fighting Capacity

Vallecitos Water District personnel install the HeloPod. Photo: Vallecitos Water District wildfire preparedness

Vallecitos Water District personnel installed the HeloPod. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The event marked a significant milestone in firefighting capacity in inland North San Diego County.

This HeloPod is a new high-capacity helicopter water dipping source — a 5,000-gallon cistern specifically designed for firefighting helicopters. It can be filled by water from Vallecitos’ Palomar Tank. It is strategically located in the hills north of Highway 78. It will serve as a vital resource for firefighting helicopters, enabling them to swiftly access clean water to contain and extinguish wildfires before they spread.

Each HeloPod holds a ready supply of 5,000 gallons of water. Photo: Vallecitos Water District wildfire preparedness

Each HeloPod holds a ready supply of 5,000 gallons of water. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

With access to a HeloPod, firefighting helicopters can fill their water tanks faster and conduct more water drops per hour. Filling up a helicopter with a HeloPod is four times faster than filling up by landing, which is vital when seconds count.

County Fire and CalFIRE are also placing large HeloPods around San Diego County. One is already in use at the CalFIRE Station in Julian, and at the CalFIRE San Diego Unit in El Cajon; at the Rainbow Fire Center in Fallbrook, and at the McCain Valley Fire Camp in Boulevard. Future HeloPods will be placed at Crouch Valley near Mt. Laguna and near the Puerta La Cruz CalFIRE Conservation Camp near Warner Springs.

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It’s that time of year when the dry heat, along with winds, increases the risk of wildfires.

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Loveland Reservoir-Firefighter Helicopter-Valley Fire-Sweetwater Authority

Water Agencies Assist in Fighting Valley Fire

The Sweetwater Authority and the Otay Water District collaborated with multiple agencies during the recent Valley Fire in San Diego County. Water infrastructure played a key role in the firefighting effort.

Cooperation and collaboration are critical elements during wildfires. Both water agencies worked with multiple responders, including U.S. Forest Service firefighters, CALFIRE and SDG&E, to ensure the safety of crews and keep a safe, reliable water supply flowing for their customers.

The Valley Fire started September 5, southeast of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest. Before it was fully contained on September 24, the wildfire burned 16,390 acres and destroyed at least 30 homes, according to officials with the Cleveland National Forest.

Loveland Reservoir plays key role in firefighting efforts

Water agency infrastructure, employees and the public were directly threatened. The fire started in Alpine near the Sweetwater Authority Loveland Reservoir. Employees and anglers at the reservoir had to be evacuated.

Reservoir water was used throughout the firefighting efforts. Designated as critical infrastructure, Loveland was protected by fire crews, who used bulldozers on the property to create fire breaks.

Sweetwater Authority also made water tankers available to provide drinking water to crews and other agencies working the fire.

Valley Fire-Water Drop-Sweetwater Authority-Alpine

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Valley Fire near Alpine in September 2020. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Infrastructure at Loveland Reservoir to protect water quality and provide for recreation was protected and did not sustain damage during the fire.

“We are grateful to the firefighters who worked tirelessly to protect Loveland Reservoir,” said Sweetwater Authority General Manager Tish Berge. “This reservoir is crucial in providing local water and keeping water rates low for our customers.”

The region was in the early stages of a prolonged heatwave when the fire started. The San Diego Union-Tribune reporters covering the fire wrote on September 5:

El Cajon hit 114 degrees and Alpine reached 113 — the highest temperatures ever recorded in those communities — while Ramona got to 112 and San Diego State University topped out at 105, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday night, fire fighters were working to control a wildfire that grew to more than 1,500 acres in the rural Japatul Valley area of East County, threatening homes and forcing evacuations.

“We’re throwing everything at it,” said Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser, as teams used helicopters and air tankers to make water drops. “It is going to be an extreme-attack fire. It is nothing we are putting out tonight.”

Otay Water District urges energy conservation

The Otay Water District safely curtailed electric power at its facilities during the Valley Fire as requested by SDG&E to help alleviate fire and weather concerns.

In addition to the prolonged heatwave and the Valley Fire, SDG&E continued to monitor potential high fire risk weather conditions. Those conditions may have forced SDG&E to shut off power to reduce the risk of a wildfire. Prior to the Valley Fire, Otay encouraged customers in its service area to safely conserve energy.

“We believe that any actions a local water agency like the Otay Water District can take to help SDG&E during heatwaves and the fires contributes to the region’s safety as a community,” said Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez.

Fighting wildfires involves cooperation from many agencies. The Valley Fire is another example of how water agencies, and water infrastructure, are key parts of those efforts. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

ValleyFire-InciWeb-Sweetwater Authority

Area covered by the Valley Fire in San Diego County, September 2020. Graphic: InciWeb

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