Fire Threat ‘State of Urgency’ Declared by SF Board of Supes

PRESS RELEASE: Board of Supervisors unanimously declares State of Urgency to expand Emergency Firefighting Water System across San Francisco

One third of the city is currently not protected by the Emergency Firefighting Water System in the event of a major earthquake and fire

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously adopted Supervisor Gordon Mar’s legislation declaring a State of Urgency to rapidly expand the City’s Emergency Firefighting Water System (EFWS) to protect all neighborhoods in the event of a major earthquake and fire.

“Recently, we’ve experienced multiple earthquakes and fires across the Bay Area, and we must be ready in every neighborhood when the big one strikes,” said Mar. “The current pace is not enough and we must expedite the expansion of this life saving infrastructure across the City.”

The City’s EFWS was first created following the 1906 earthquake, and includes 135 miles of high-pressure and high-volume pipelines and two salt-water pumping stations. The network of high-pressure and high-volume water pipelines primarily covers just the northeastern part of the city, and one-third of the City is not protected. Most of the City’s residential neighborhoods on the westside and in the southeast, including the Richmond and Sunset districts, Oceanview-Merced Ingleside Heights, Bayview Hunter’s Point and Visitacion Valley, remain unprotected by the City’s firefighting water system and are vulnerable to widespread fires, loss of life and property destruction following a major earthquake.

The USGS estimates there is a 72 percent likelihood of a major earthquake striking the Bay Area before 2043. The USGS also warns that the pace of large earthquakes is likely to increase due to geological reasons.

The legislation urges the City to create a comprehensive action plan including a number of key points:

  • to expand the City’s high-pressure and high-volume water pipelines dedicated for firefighting to all unprotected neighborhoods within 15 years;
  • to complete a study for adding a new firefighting salt-water pumping station on the westside of the city;
  • to analyze whether to propose a separate bond for the needed infrastructure expansion as part of the City’s regular capital planning process;
  • to create interim protections within three years by increasing the emergency firefighting capacity in all neighborhoods currently unprotected by high-pressure and high-volume pipelines;
  • to strengthen public oversight and accountability by requiring an annual report to be presented to the Board of Supervisors on the status of the Emergency Firefighting Water System’s preparedness for a major earthquake and fire.

“The legislation we adopted today will get the city to develop a comprehensive action plan to expedite the expansion of the EFWS and protect all neighborhoods,” said Mar. “My legislation also calls on the SFFD to expand the number of hose tender fire trucks as an interim measure to protect all residents.”

Mar’s legislation is co-sponsored by Board President Norman Yee, and supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Ahsha Safai, and Shamann Walton.

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