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Farmers Offer Ponds For Firefighting

There's no way to credit a private property owner for offering up a pond for helicopters to dip from during a wildfire, but many invest time and money to keep these water sources ready to go, just in case.

Posted: Dec. 6, 2018 8:03 AM
Updated: Dec. 6, 2018 8:08 AM

Butte County, Calif.-- "Every time there's a fire they use it, this is the first time they they weren't able to dip out of it, and the biggest fire in California history and the pond wasn't ready to go," said Mike Boggs, a Butte County farmer and foreman.

For Mike Boggs, home in Butte Valley is a fire danger zone - no question.

But he plays it safe; his cows graze the hillsides bare, and for decades, he's worked to keep a pond on site available for Cal Fire helicopters to use as a water source.

But this year, the pond was overrun.

"Getting harder for my cows to even get a drink out of because there were so many tullies in there," said Boggs.

Boggs paid about $5,000 out of pocket to get it bulldozed.

Fish & Games took four months to approve the permit - and the pond was not ready when the Camp Fire struck.

"He tried to dip out of it once but couldn't get a full bucket, so I'm just watching him fly twice as far to dump water on houses and cars that were burning," said Boggs.

Fish & Games says that you can forgo the permit required in the case of an emergency - like a fire. But at that point, it's way too late.

"We want to regulations taken off for farmers ponds so we can get them cleaned out, dredged out and ready for fire season," said Boggs.

Cal Fire just can't expedite a permit.

"When a helicopter goes up they recon the area and they'll find water that's safe for them to use but in no way does cal fire maintain maps or inventory or tell a property owner how to maintain their water source," said Cal Fire Captain John Gaddie.

"So how can we make this process easier for property owners who maintain their ponds really to help their community?" I asked.

"They can reach out to Cal Fire and we'll address their concerns," said Gaddie.

Boggs said reimbursement is fine - but he'll keep fighting to make sure ponds like his are always available.

"It was a nightmare of mine, thinking about it later - if that pond was ready to go, maybe it would have saved a house, maybe a life - the maybes in it" said Boggs. "There'll be another fire, no doubt in my mind, so let's be ready."

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