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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.

How Record-Smashing Heat Invited Infernos to the West

Two weeks ago, the Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado history when it grew to an area nearly the size of Chicago. The 139,000-acre blaze, ignited July 31, was fueled by another record: The area where the fire occurred experienced its hottest August in at least 126 years.