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Fire Crews Get Creative With Water Sources During Drought Conditions

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Crews are fighting the Caldor Fire in the middle of drought conditions that have sparked water restrictions in several cities.

Water levels are extremely low at lakes and reservoirs crews depend on—sometimes forcing them to get creative.

"It may require us to go further in some areas. If we know the area is remote and there's not easily accessible water or city water that's available," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesperson for Cal Fire.

Fire trucks and helicopters have been filling up at Jenkinson Lake to fight the Caldor Fire. The levels are very low there and they've dropped ten feet in just the last two months. But CALFIRE said it's still enough to battle a wildfire.

Berlant said drought conditions usually don't immediately affect a firefight because fire crews can pull from diverse sources.

"In an emergency situation, we access water. Whether it's a rancher's pond or whether it's a reservoir, water is going to be a critical necessity for us to fight fire," he said.

Despite low levels at Jenkinson Lake, the El Dorado Irrigation District said there's plenty to fight a fire and keep enough drinking water supply. If water gets hard to find, crews will use large trucks called water tenders to pump and haul water into remote areas.

"And in times of need, engines and water tenders have been known to take water out of pools around homes. We'll also use tanks of water that the public may have on their property," said Robert Foxworthy, a Cal Fire public information officer.

The U.S. Forest Service is coordinating a specialized squadron of night helicopters flown in from Southern California that bring their own water and retardant to the fight. One of their chinooks can drop up to three thousand gallons in one sitting.

Once the fire is over, Cal Fire makes every effort to return what they took.

"After the fire is done, we will work to replace the water, whether we send water tenders to a fire hydrant miles away and truck it in," Berlant said.

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