Wildfire Rehabilitation Project, Monterey County, CA

 

      Rain gauge monitoring station
Rain gauge monitoring station

 

In June 2008 Monterey County sustained two massive wildfires that burned more than 90,000 acres. Known as the Indians Fire and the Basin Complex Fire, the fires made national headlines as they burned for more than a week and threatened to destroy the community of Big Sur in the Los Padres National Forest. Ash and smoke from the fires created additional problems, as air quality advisories were issued not only in Monterey County, but also in nearby Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

In the aftermath of the fire, Howard Franklin of the County's Water Resource Agency sought help assessing and repairing the damage. Howard and his staff identified fourteen sites, including two repeater stations that were "in the line of fire". Four of these were noted as helicopter access only. They described the scope of the project as damage assessment of ALERT stations with additional tasks including the performance of approved repairs up to and including full replacement (if necessary).

Once the U.S. Forest Service Burn Area Emergency Response Team (BAER Team) authorized the project, the County selected their project team in just a matter of weeks. The role High Sierra Electronics (HSE) played in the project was to provide hardware and installation assistance, while Don Van Wie represented OneRain for site assessment and repair recommendations.

Standpipe repeater station retrofit
Standpipe repeater station retrofit

 

     

Although the County was still receiving data from all these sites, they weren't certain about the integrity of the data or physical condition of the equipment. It was presumed that heavy ash and residue from fire retardant would eventually affect the hardware; i.e., the tipping bucket mechanism, solar panel, and antennas. According to Howard Franklin, many of the standpipes and antenna masts were already compromised from corrosion due to the salt air. The Project Team had to organize quickly and efficiently.

When faced with the task of replacing old and damaged standpipes at remote sites, Bob Eitel, a Service Manager with HSE, came up with a creative solution. Bob designed a standpipe retrofit "sleeve", which eliminates the groundbreaking chore of replacing standpipes at remote sites. It proved to be particularly helpful for those sites accessed only by helicopter. The retrofit requires that the old standpipe be cut with a reciprocating saw approximately 15 inches from the concrete base. The sleeve is then slipped over the remaining section of the old standpipe and bolted in place. Don Van Wie offered the following remarks: "The retrofit sleeve is the perfect solution for old remote sites that are damaged or obsolete. It was easy to transport and easy to install. We got all the advantages of the latest standpipe configurations - access door, removable funnel section, and a solid mast structure. And the whole installation took just over an hour".

The project was completed in just over a two-week period. The team had anticipated many of the hardware requirements in advance, so that the site assessment and repairs could be done concurrently in most cases. The helicopter access-only sites were more of a challenge, but the retrofit sleeve helped ease the process and enabled the crew to make a single visit.

Monterey County standpipe repeater station retrofit team
Monterey County standpipe repeater station retrofit team


 

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