San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a resolution to declare a state of urgency that will allow expansion of The City’s Emergency Water Firefighting System to neighborhoods where the system does not reach.

The resolution, authored by Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset District, said at least a one-third of The City is not covered by the EWFS, including in the western and southeastern neighborhoods.

Mar said at the board meeting:

“This fall, residents in our city and throughout the Bay Area had been reminded of the importance of emergency preparedness as we experienced yet another devastating fire season in the North Bay, plus a series of unsettling moderate earthquakes throughout the region, and of course the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta in October.”

The resolution calls for San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to come up with a comprehensive plan by the end of 2021 to expand the EWFS to neighborhoods that are not covered by 2034 and to complete a study by June 30, 2021 to establish if a salt water pump could be added to the west side of The City.

Additionally, the resolution calls for a study to be completed by June 30, 2022 to determine if a separate bond measure is necessary to accomplish the EWFS expansion.

A $628 million bond measure will appear on the March 2020 ballot, which would enable construction and seismic retrofitting of the EWFS and additional emergency disaster facilities and infrastructure, including fire and police facilities.

The City’s EWFS is comprised of 135 miles of high-pressured pipeline and two saltwater pumps that can provide firefighters with water resources to put out large fires, especially after a major disasters.

Mar said the system was built after the devastating 1906 earthquake, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage due to widespread fires that erupted after the quake.

The supervisor said he wants to prevent what happened in 1906 when another big earthquake inevitably hits the Bay Area.

City and County of San Francisco High-pressure Auxiliary Water Supply System in San Francisco, Calif.

As city officials study and plan to expand the system, the San Francisco Fire Department is working to expand the number of hose tenders — a firefighting apparatus that attach to hydrants or cisterns and provide high-pressure water.

Jonathan Baxter, a spokesperson for SFFD, said the department currently has five hose tenders, some dating back to 1973.

Baxter said the fire department will be provided five new hose tenders, four allocated through The City’s budget and one from the state. 

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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