When fighting wildland or structural fires, it’s hard to overstate the value of water. However, the ongoing drought has created new challenges to firefighters, who are trying to conserve water while dousing flames. According to state water officials, firefighters are being extremely careful to account for the impact of the drought and are working with water managers to identify where water is still available to use. They have also felt the drought’s effect when they’re not fighting fires. Training exercises are now using less water, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The drought is also slowing firefighting response in some places, as lower water levels have made it impossible in some instances for helicopters to funnel water from lakes and ponds. In some cases, that means sending air tankers farther to a deeper water source, or using other tactics such as using dirt or flames retardants instead of water.
With wild fires raging across the West, the drought has come as a great challenge. What used to be a season has turned into a year-round battle. However, officials have been surveying water sources for months as the drought has changed many landscapes and are on board with adapting as necessary.