In November 2018, the Woolsey fire burned through nearly 97,000 acres of Southern California in fourteen days, destroying 1,643 structures and forcing 295,000 people to be evacuated from the area. The course of the fire was largely random, guided in large part by the Santa Ana winds.
As the nation’s largest wholesale landscape supply distributor, SiteOne Landscape Supply services thousands of properties throughout the country, many located in Southern California. In addition to the opportunity to deploy smart irrigation technologies as a form of fire prevention, this particular drought- stricken climate comes with its own set of irrigation needs.
Since the area is wildfire prone, many residential and commercial properties have included specific irrigation technologies as part of their design to potentially deliver fire prevention. As a technician for SiteOne, TJ Raden knows first-hand how smart irrigation can play a role in fire prevention, particularly for one of his clients in the Malibu area during the Woolsey fire.
The customer’s 10+ acre property near the Pacific Coast Highway backed directly onto an open area that was evacuated and rapidly being engulfed by flames. The property uses WeatherTRAK smart irrigation controllers to run over 100 stations to water trees, tropical plants, an orchard, and a full vegetable garden. In addition to the irrigation, twelve valves were designated for impact sprinklers to perform fire prevention, with the sprinklers situated around the property up on four-foot risers for better coverage.
The impact sprinklers were situated to soak the land closest to where potential wildfires would likely enter the property, surrounding the entire perimeter. They had their own valves and stations on the controller so they could be immediately deployed in this situation. When the fire started spreading and there were mass evacuations, Raden tried contacting the homeowners to assess the situation.
When he was unable to reach them, he initiated the fire prevention sprinklers via WeatherTRAK Central. He logged in remotely, far from the fire zone, and created a new cycle and soak program for their fire sprinklers. The new program irrigated each valve for five minutes, and then let the water soak for 55 minutes, around the clock, to keep the entire perimeter moist day and night. Raden also created a new program that would automatically resume the fire sprinkler program in case the power ever went out to ensure no manual intervention would be needed to keep the property protected.
The fire came close, but thankfully the house was spared and this unique use of smart water management didn’t have to directly battle the Woolsey fire. But as climate change progresses, and drought conditions worsen, this may be a more common feature of future irrigation designs.