The community of Paradise suffered an immeasurable tragedy this fall when the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history swept through their town. The fire caused at least 86 deaths and injured 17. The fire covered over 150,000 acres and destroyed 18,804 structures. Most homes were lost within the first four hours.
South Coast Water District Vice President Dennis Erdman ended the Board’s November 15 meeting with his heartfelt thoughts, reflecting on this enormous tragedy. Director Erdman had a long-term connection with the Paradise Irrigation District having interviewed for a job there many years ago. “What is an agency to do to get up off its feet,” said Erdman. “I don’t want this moment to pass without reflecting on how we can lend a hand to another utility.”
With those thoughts in mind, Clerk of the Board Jody Brennan got to work. She contacted the general manager at the Paradise Irrigation District to see if SCWD could adopt the employees for Christmas. Over ninety percent of their employees lost their homes in the fire. Employees like Jeff Hill, who told NBC News, “I've lived here my whole life so that I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else." Jeff lost his home in the fire and planned to rebuild.
The general manager replied within minutes and was exuberant. Throughout the next few days, the employees of South Coast Water District contributed money towards a gift card fund. Jody then contacted the Board Secretary at the Santa Margarita Water District to see if their employees would be interested in doing the same. On that very same day, she heard from the Municipal Water District of Orange County who not only wanted to join the effort but share the situation with 33 member agencies. Jody once again reached out to Paradise Irrigation District’s general manager about the effort gaining momentum, and he responded that they would truly appreciate any additional help. The little engine that could (South Coast Water District) started a small “train” among regional water professionals to provide an agency in need with gifts cards and much-needed equipment. Yorba Linda Water District donated surplus trucks, and other Districts were raising money and looking at how they could help.
On December 17, South Coast Water District sent holiday cards to each of Paradise Irrigation District’s 40 employees with gift cards. Our goal was to collect fifty dollars per employee, but instead, we were able to send each of them a card with a one-hundred-dollar gift card!
We hope our gift cards will bring a little joy during a very difficult time. Paradise Irrigation District you are in our thoughts and hearts this holiday!