By Bob Rucker

In his May 8, 2019 letter to the editor, TUD board member Ron Ringen to his credit presents a rallying cry to raise awareness and reduce fire risk within the county. Unfortunately, he resorts to insults and misrepresentation of certain public officials who work hard to protect our community.

The Tuolumne Utilities District is a supportive partner of Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors and Cal Fire Unit Chief Josh White in the areas of fire mitigation and response for the community.

At my request, White attended our board meeting on April 23 and explained his position on fire water draft points. The chief stated that he supports fire water draft points, but he has no budgeted funds to construct them, and if he had additional funds available, he would spend them on water tenders and other portable water facilities that could be moved to the fire and to replace the 20-year-old fire apparatus currently in the fleet.

Tuolumne County to its credit has sponsored the Fire Safety and Community Resilience Task Force that is supported by the Tuolumne Utilities District and many local, regional, state, and federal agencies that serve Tuolumne County — too many to list in this short space.

This Fire Safety Task Force meets frequently to carry out its mission to build fire safety and resilience through community collaboration, education, and participation. With supporting professional members, such as Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and many other partnering agencies and officials, the collaboration and the development of shared information is building a more fire safe community and working to secure funding to carry out its mission throughout the county, especially in high fire risk areas.

Tuolumne Utilities District's priority is to provide a reliable water supply in all year types, most especially during drought and fire emergencies. To that end, the TUD is mapping all critical water facilities to include 14 water treatment plants, 80-plus water storage tanks, water service areas and pipelines, pump stations, fire hydrants, the 70-plus-mile raw water ditch system, storage and regulation reservoirs, and available stock water ponds with the goal of clearly identifying and making these facilities available to the public safety sector during emergencies. With fire season upon us and PG&E's Public Safety Shutoff program rolling out with potential unknown impacts, TUD is taking a proactive approach to be prepared by identifying these critical water facilities and providing access to potable and raw water supplies, along with backup generation to keep these systems running even during times of emergencies and power outages.

Most importantly, TUD and its board and staff support the Tuolumne County Fire Safety initiative and its firefighting agencies, such as Cal Fire and Tuolumne County Fire Department. As TUD works to build water supply reliability for all the customers in the region, the success of this endeavor, like the county's Fire Safety initiative, will be a function of all local, state, and federal agencies and private partners working together to achieve a goal that is bigger than any one agency, but protective of the health and welfare of the community we all call home.

Bob Rucker is president of the Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors.

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